Friday, March 20, 2015

YouTube Cards: An Annotation Upgrade?

The current annotation system on YouTube videos is pretty cool and allows you to embed custom text and links in your videos, which can help drive traffic to other videos. Text can add metadata that aids with Search Engine Optimization (SEO), and the "spotlight" feature lets your draw boxes around objects in your video (such as graphics you added in post), which can also be links. It' a somewhat flexible system that lends to minimalist creativity.

The largest drawback to this system has always been the lack of these links to work on mobile devices. With more and more traffic coming from smartphones and tablets, it only makes sense that content creators would want these users the same click-through options as computer viewers.

YouTube is touting "YouTube Cards" as the next step in annotations, that will eventually replace the old system. While it finally allows embedded YouTube links to work on mobile devices, it also eliminates a lot of nice flexibility of the former system. This could lead to a lot of similar looking links across the YouTube space.

While I go into further examples of this problem in the video, I'm left asking some questions to those in charge. Why not just make the old system work on mobile devices? If close captioning works on mobile platforms, why not text pop-ups and text linking? Why move the branding mark to the bottom of the screen where lower-third graphics have always lived, which is why they are called "lower-thirds"?

Why, YouTube, why?

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