On Jan. 20, 2011, YouTube changed its homepage layout. On Jan. 28, Liz of the YouTube Team said in the Help Forum, "We've been listening over the past week, and it's clear that some of you don't like the new homepage."
She added, "Change is never easy, and we'll use your feedback to help YouTube improve in the weeks to come. But we know we're on to something, and the new homepage is here to stay. Give it a chance, and find out why millions of users opted in and stuck with it."
In the Help Forum, the "best answer" to her request came from BigJimW10, a YouTube Partner from Warwick, RI. He said, "If this incredible update is so embraced by the millions, why are they not in here defending it and thanking you guys? Why do we all see that 99% of those in the forums think it sucks donkey balls?"
BigJimW10 also uploaded a "video response to this train wreck."
Now, BigJimW10's channel "features no bull commentary on random events." So, perhaps we shouldn't be shocked, shocked that he coined the phrase "scrotumific" to describe the new YouTube homepage layout.
But compare and contrast that with the thousands of anti-government protesters in Egypt, who have once again started gathering in Cairo's Tahrir Square.
I realize this statement borders on reductio ad absurdum, but the protest over the YouTube homepage layout shows less civility than the Egyptian protests over three decades of systematic and brutal repression in Egypt.
Why is that?
My colleague Kristine Schachinger wrote a column on Jan. 20 entitled, "The Web: Why Users No Longer Matter." She observed: "Google pushed Instant, Places, and about 10 other changes on us in 2010. Meetup.com took out the 'Maybe' button despite it being a default option. Apple won't support Flash. LinkedIn removed and added so many features I can no longer count. Twitter forced an auto RT button and later pushed everyone to the 'new Twitter.' And last week Facebook pushed everyone to their new profile."
She added, "What do all these changes have in common? All of them have been forced on users and all of them have been met with a heavy outpouring of negative comments for delivering a worse experience. And what's each company's response been? Learn to live with it."
So, I can understand why BigJimW10 isn't happy with the changes to YouTube's homepage layout. They were forced on him. But saying "It SUCKS!" may not be the most effective way to get the YouTube Team to listen to him, either.
What is the alternative? Is there a middle path? I think there is.
Back on June 30, 2010, the Official Google Blog announced that the company was "revamping the Google News homepage." On July 3, I wrote a post entitled, "Is the Google News Redesign a Repeat of the New Coke Disaster?"
And I quoted Brad, who said, "The new Google News blows! I want the old one back. I shouldn't need to log in each time I want to check the top news stories (I switch between 5 different computers during a normal day)."
Now, it took until July 16, 2010, before Google News made some changes to reflect the feedback. And it didn't make all of the changes that were being requested.
So, it is worth noting that -- according to Compete -- unique visitors to Google News are down since the redesign was announced, from 10,034,815 in June 2010 to 9,387,341 in December. Meanwhile, unique visitors to Yahoo! News are up, from 37,222,039 in June to 43,097,564 in December.
So, a redesign didn't help Google News in the middle of 2010 and a new homepage layout may not help YouTube in early 2011.
Hopefully, this kind of evidence will persuade the YouTube Team to rethink forcing changes on its users and partners -- even if they can't move to Yahoo! Video, which is closing down on March 15, 2011.
But according to Compete, unique visitors to Vimeo are up 115.74 percent in the past year to almost 8.6 million, unique visitors to Dailymotion are up 39.27 percent to more than 7.5 million, and unique visitors to Metacafe are up 35.89 percent to almost 8.2 million.
And my daughter, who attends the Massachusetts College of Art and Design, prefers Vimeo over YouTube. So, I have my own focus group of one to tell me that I need consider alternatives to "the largest worldwide video-sharing community."
According to Compete, unique visitors to YouTube are up 24.76 percent in the past year to more than 117.2 million. So, YouTube is still growing and is still significantly ahead of its competitors.
But, other leaders have been toppled by protests. So, it pays to listen -- and to respond quickly -- even if some of the protesters show less civility than seems justified.