On the 6th of December, YouTube released its annual throwback video, Youtube Rewind 2018: Everybody Controls Rewind.
The idea behind the Rewind videos has always been to provide a look back at the year, celebrating the biggest content creators in the community, while appreciating the viral trends that flooded the platform over the months leading up to December. YouTube Rewind is supposed to be a funny, feel-good appreciation video that is well received by at least a majority of the community.
Safe to say, that didn’t really happen this year.
In less than a week, Rewind 2018 received over ten million dislikes, surpassing Justin Beiber’s Baby with ease to claim the title of most disliked YouTube video ever. As of the time of writing, it stands at 11.1 million dislikes. As bad as that figure sounds, the reality is in fact even worse.
While Baby might be the next most disliked video with 9.9m (it had been closer to 9m, but the attention this has brought back to it seems to have garnered it even more dislikes), it reached that total in 8 years; well over 400 times slower than YouTube Rewind.
What’s more, Baby has a dislike percentage of 48.75%, meaning that it currently has more likes than dislikes. Rewind, on the other hand, is currently operating at an 82.7% dislike ratio. The only two videos with a higher percentage (both 94%) in the top 20 disliked videos have titles specifically aimed at getting dislikes.
A reaction like this is more than just a video being unpopular. YouTube as a company has been finding itself drifting further and further away from the community of creators that has been there since the platform was launched.
In reality, this truly started to happen when the ‘Ad-pocalypse’ hit the site in early 2017, and complaints started that videos were getting unfairly de-monitised without explanation, or for untrue reasons. This, combined with a copyright system that has been abused by claimants for years, started to create animosity and resentment among the YouTube community.
However, the frustrations really started to come to the fore in May of 2018, when YouTube announced that they would be funding several new shows starring A-list celebrities, including Will Smith, Kevin Hart and Jack Whitehall.
🎉🎊We're excited to announce our new slate of YouTube Originals!
Read more: https://t.co/GiNv8zR8N0
— YouTube (@YouTube) May 4, 2018
This news was received poorly in the community, with many criticising the decision to give already-established celebrities a platform on the site when the money could have been better spent to help home-grown YouTubers realise their full creative potential.
Have you considered supporting actual YouTubers? Your business was built on, and exploded because of, the hard work and talent of home grown content creators. Lean INTO the very lifeblood of your platform instead of throwing obscene amounts of money at Will Smith.
— Tolarian Community (@TolarianCollege) May 4, 2018
The announcement was seen by many as a sign that YouTube was trying to move away from its roots as a platform for a creative community, and trying to develop series that would rival film and television streaming sites such as Netflix. This, understandably, started to make creators feel like they were not being appreciated.
In hindsight, YouTube can probably appreciate that having Will Smith as the opening shot – a spot that many feel is the most prestigious – for Rewind 2018 was always going to make that feeling so much worse. To aggravate the community even more, not only were several huge channels not featured (among which was Pewdiepie, the largest channel on the platform), but some creators who were promised spots were left disappointed.
This included Lachlan, an Australian gaming YouTuber who flew to America for filming, only to then find his appearance had been cut.
Why in Will Smith's imagination of Rewind did I get all my lines and screen time cut? Totally worth flying 15 hours for that… Might go stream on twitch and upload my highlights to get some screen time 🆗🆒
— Lachlan ⚡️ (@LachlanYT) December 6, 2018
Lachlan has almost 10 million subscribers, and so it was with considerable anger that he and other YouTubers reacted to the fact that he had been cut while non-YouTubers had made the film.
Worst part is my parents were so excited to see me on Youtube Rewind this year with an actual role (after last year's disaster in rewind). Glad I'm not in Australia right now to see the disappointment on their face once again, thanks for the embarrassment @YouTube
— Lachlan ⚡️ (@LachlanYT) December 6, 2018
Perhaps the biggest issue with YouTube Rewind 2018 was that it was in fact an accurate summary of where the platform’s priorities lie currently.
Right now, the creative community is more united than it has been in years, with creators banding behind Pewdiepie, the current largest channel on the site, to keep him ahead of T-Series, a channel run by an Indian film and music video company. Many feel that if T-Series does become the most subscribed channel, it will be symbolic of the platforms fall to multi-million-dollar corporations. But it is because of this unity that the community was able to send such a strong message to YouTube through the reaction to Rewind 2018.
Hopefully YouTube will take note. It can surely only go up from here.