The tool allows audience members to contribute subtitles to videos made by creators.
Speaking on the Creator Insider channel, James Dillard, Product Manager at YouTube, said: “We’re wondering if it makes sense to continue [the community captions feature] or if the effort that would be spent building and maintaining it would be better spent on other features.
“The reason that we’re considering it ultimately comes down to not that many creators are ultimately using it.”
In the video, James goes on to reveal that in the last month, less than one-thousandth of a percent of channels approved a community captions track.
“Some of the things that we heard [from users] were, ‘well, I really love that it exists” – everyone is positive on the theory – and then they said ‘but…’
“They say things like, ‘but I’ve had problems with spam’, or, ‘it’s not reliable enough for me’,” he added.
Last year, YouTube announced that it would require creators to manually review community contributions, such as translations, before making them public.
“Based on the feedback we’ve heard, we are introducing some changes to Community Contributions.
“Moving forward, creators that have turned on this feature will need to manually review their Community Contributions and check for spam before publishing,” the platform tweeted in August.
It followed concerns raised by commentary YouTuber JT, who revealed that individuals were abusing the translations tool on videos by creators such as Felix Kjellberg (Pewdiepie) and Seán McLoughlin (Jacksepticeye).
“Even though it sounds really great in theory, it only works for the biggest channels and then there’s problem with spam and abuse. Then people turn it off,” James explained.
He also added that community captions receive a low amount of watch time, with around 0.2% of watch time coming from a video with a community caption track selected.
Responding to James’ comments, Tom Leung, host of Creator Insider, said: “If you’re hearing this and you’re like, ‘well I vote for keeping it’, what you’re also voting for is less improvements [sic] to the experience for creators to upload their own captions, less improvements on the automated captions [and] less improvements on the ability to refine the automated captions.”
The announcement of a review comes as YouTube continues to work on captioning tools, including looking to extend its permission tool to cover captions and developing a new captions editor, with creators currently testing an alpha version of the feature.
“There’s a bunch of work that is continuing to happen on automatic captions, making them more accurate, supporting more languages, making them better [by supporting] punctuation and grammar capitalisation,” James said.
— Rikki Poynter 📷 (@rikkipoynter) April 24, 2020
However, the proposals have faced criticism from Deaf creators and viewers, with No More CRAPtions campaigner Rikki Poynter telling TenEighty she doesn’t think the community contributions should be retired.
“While I do acknowledge and have called out the fact that the feature gets abused by trolls, I know that the feature brings accessibility that we didn’t have before to the table.
“Community contributions gave us more captioned channels and now we will risk having less of that. I’m also taking issue with the fact that this channel doesn’t caption their stuff properly, especially on videos about captions.
“It’s inaccessible, difficult to read, and just shouldn’t look that way coming from YouTube,” she said.
Creators are now being asked to share their thoughts on the future of community captions in the comments section of the video on the Creator Insider channel.
“The best type of feedback you can give us is information about why and how it would affect your channel if you don’t think that we should do this,” James said.
Find out more about YouTube’s new self-certification feature for video monetisation, or read up on the platform’s plans to let creators know when their audience is online.