With recent discussions about YouTubers' mental wellbeing, Google is looking for ways to reduce pressure on its creators. Unfortunately, as it's often the case, the company's approach can be considered tone-deaf. After announcing a switch to abbreviated public subscriber counts in May, YouTube now says it's starting to roll out these changes to the public next week. Creators and consumers are equally unhappy with the decision, and stat counters like Social Blade could face an existential crisis.
Back in May, Google argued that the changes come for the sake of consistency: "Currently, all creators with over 1,000 subscribers see their subscriber counts displayed differently in different places across YouTube desktop and mobile apps. In some cases, the subscriber count is abbreviated (e.g., 133k) and in other places we display the full count (e.g., 133,017)." On top of this, the company now adds that it also wants to address "creator concerns about stress and wellbeing, specifically around tracking public subscriber counts in real time."
Abbreviated public subscriber counts are gradually rolling out starting next week.
We heard a lot of feedback from the community following our announcement in May – we’ve updated our original post with more info here → https://t.co/YHRfW7JlDr
— TeamYouTube (@TeamYouTube) August 29, 2019
While channels with less than 1,000 subscribers won't see any change, higher numbers are going to be abbreviated to show no more than three numbers at a time. 1,234 subscribers will display as 1.23k, and 123,456,789 subscribers will be even less precise with 123M.
The numbers in the middle might look neater than the ones on the left, but becoming a subscriber of a big channel will now feel even less personal and impactful than before.
Along with the changes on YouTube itself, the streaming platform's Data API Service will also return abbreviated counts for channels with more than 1,000 subscribers. The days of Social Blade and other websites relying on exact numbers to analyze channel growth might be counted. In a statement on Twitter, Social Blade says that while it's not happy with the changes, it will continue operating despite this handicap. The question is how valuable the service can remain without exact numbers.
YouTube announced they are going live with abbreviated subscriber counts in September. While we're not happy they're going this route we'll be adapting the site to support this change to keep providing you data. https://t.co/qyBQP4pvQx
— Social Blade (@SocialBlade) August 29, 2019
YouTubers and fans alike argue that while the numbers may look prettier, this will neither help with anxiety nor with transparency. Creators will still be able to see their exact subscriber count in their Studio interface, and becoming a fan will feel less personal because your individual subscription won't visibly raise the publicly available number anymore. YouTube's closing words on the update, downvoted more than 1,000 times already, won't appease anyone: "While we know not everyone will agree with this update, we hope it’s a positive step for the community, both those viewing and creating content."