Commentary

Just An Online Minute... Users Work Their Clout In Cyberspace

Faced with user pushback after revising its site, YouTube announced on its blog it was restoring a feature that allows users to browse videos by categories and to easily see which videos within particular categories were most often viewed, discussed and rated by other users.

Last week, the company "upgraded" the site. Among other changes, it was now prominently featuring videos recommended by editors -- a change that irked users who liked the grassroots nature of the old site design.

After a slew of angry comments, YouTube said it had restored category browsing and also said it never intended to permanently take away this functionality. "The browse by category functionality is back up and running," the company stated on its blog Wednesday. "Thanks again for your patience and please accept our apologies for any frustration that this temporary removal caused."

Still, the dust-up on the site was reminiscent of several other clashes in the last year between Web 2.0 sites and the users. In May, company executives at Digg had to stop censoring posts that purported to tell people how to get around anti-piracy restrictions in DVDs when a user rebellion threatened to torpedo the site. And Facebook last September had to revise a new RSS feature within days of its introduction, after users complained that the revision violated their privacy. Ironically, while Google/YouTube, Digg and Facebook helped build Web 2.0, not even those companies seem to understand how social sites have changed the dynamics of Web publishing. Consumers today very quickly feel a sense of ownership over social sites -- and companies risk alienating them when executives at the top make major changes without considering how the audience will react

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