Why Did YouTube Remove Annotations

YouTube annotations have now joined the countless “innovative features” that have fallen by the wayside after the development of more relevant and cutting-edge features that are more useful to users. 

YouTube has officially removed annotations and replaced them with ‘Cards’ and ‘End Screens,’ which are more mobile-friendly tools that offer most of the same functionalities as annotations, such as polling viewers and linking to other YouTube videos. However, before we delve deeper into the replacements, let’s discuss what annotations were and why YouTube made the decision to ultimately remove them. 

What Were YouTube Annotations?

Annotations were one of the main ways for self-promoting channels and were usually displayed as translucent boxes layered over YouTube videos asking users to click and watch another hyperlinked video or to subscribe to the channel. 

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However, annotations offered much more than self-promotion. When the feature was released in 2008, it became a great way to create incredibly creative web videos. YouTubers experimented with annotations, coming up with unique ways for viewers to interact with their videos. 

These videos are still there on YouTube, but the embedded hyperlinked boxes have all been removed. This means that games now display unpressable buttons and pick-your-own-adventure videos are now essentially unplayable. Although all subsequent videos are still present on YouTube, they’re no longer connected to the main video, eliminating the interactivity that existed because of annotations. And without any connection, these videos don’t have any context. 

The same goes for interactive game shows, such as Who Wants to be a YouTubillionaire? In addition, other interactive games designed using annotations within YouTube videos, such as Interactive Minecraft, YouTube Street Fighter, and Saved by the Bell RPG no longer work as intended. 

Why Did YouTube Remove Annotations?

YouTube removed annotations primarily because they weren’t mobile-friendly and most users found the feature to be unhelpful, obnoxious, and annoying. 

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According to YouTube’s product manager, Annotations Editor was released in 2008, when most people were still watching YouTube videos on their laptops and PCs, making the idea of having annotations much more sensible. 

However, now that more than 60% of YouTube’s watch time is on mobile, there’s no point in going through the hassle of embedding annotations when they won’t even be accessible to the majority of your viewers. The alternatives (Cards and End Screens) work on both desktop and mobile, offering creators more bang for their buck.

In addition to not being mobile-friendly, YouTube annotations also became outdated and felt out of place. The text boxes enabled content creators to write small jokes, link to other connected videos, and add additional information to their videos, similar to a footnote or hyperlink of sorts. 

Unfortunately, annotation use drastically fell off by 70% over the years, which further explains YouTube’s decision to completely remove them. Most viewers also only interacted with annotations to close them, so they could watch the video without any boxes obstructing their screen. 

Many viewers even turned them off altogether, pushing YouTube to invest completely in Cards and End Screens and develop features that are both faster to implement and easier to use. 

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When YouTube initially stopped creators from developing new annotations, it left videos that already had embedded annotations alone. However, now that the platform has completely removed the feature, those embedded annotations have stopped working as well. 

Although YouTube has introduced End Screens and Cards, there’s still no alternative for interactive videos. This means that there are a lot of videos on YouTube that ask users to interact, but provide no way to do so. 

Is There an Alternative to YouTube Annotations?

Fortunately, YouTube didn’t leave its creators high and dry. Instead of annotations, it has introduced more smartphone-friendly features, namely YouTube Cards and End Screens. Although these new features are very similar to annotations and perform most of the same functions, they’re a bit less customizable. 

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For instance, Cards allow you to hyperlink to another YouTube video, but only using a sidebar. On the other hand, annotations enabled you to embed a hyperlinked video anywhere within your video. 

Along with hyperlinking, creators can use Cards to display image overlays and titles, to point their audience to a website, and to embed a poll to learn more about their audience’s opinions as well. Similarly, creators can use End Screens to promote other videos and to encourage more viewers to subscribe to their channel. 

Along with being more mobile-friendly and appearing more professional, Google claims that End Screens and Cards also generate much more clicks compared to annotations. This means that these new features not only make your videos look more polished but also help increase your chances of attracting and engaging audiences. 

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Types of YouTube Cards

If you’re a YouTube creator, then you should definitely take advantage of End Screens and Cards, as they’re great for making interactive videos that even work on mobile. Compared to annotations, Cards also offer greater capabilities for video components, resulting in more actionable results than ever before. 

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Currently, there are five different types of YouTube cards:

  1. Playlist or video to hyperlink to another video and promote your content. 
  2. Donation to raise funds for a worthy cause. 
  3. Channel to advertise and promote a different channel. 
  4. Link to link your video to another website.
  5. Poll to learn more about the opinions and preferences of your audiences. 

Is There a Drawback to YouTube Cards?

Unfortunately, there are always two sides to every coin. While YouTube Cards do allow creators to move their viewers from their video to another website via a link, they can’t have a custom URL link unless they’re a part of YouTube’s “Partner Program.”

In order to become a part of the program, creators must have more than 1,000 subscribers to their channel and have at least 4,000 watch hours in the previous 12 months. In other words, you can’t take full advantage of YouTube Cards until and unless you have a strong enough channel with a loyal audience. Although there is the option of adding links to your video description, it’s important to note that click-through rates for those links are usually low. 

Conclusion

YouTube shut down its annotations editor early in 2017 and completely removed annotations in 2019. According to the video platform, it primarily ended this feature because of a 70% decrease in usage. However, the fact that annotations didn’t work on mobile also played a big role in this decision.  

On laptops and PCs, there are several different ways viewers can close or pause a video. They can click in the middle of their screen, press ‘k,’ click the pause icon, press the spacebar, or completely close the tab. If your entire screen is filled with clickable annotations, then the only option that you can’t use to pause your video is clicking the middle of your screen. 

On the other hand, there are only two ways to pause a video on mobile: either tap the home button or tap the middle of the screen. If your entire screen is filled with clickable annotations, then you won’t have any option but to select an annotation whether you want to or not. Ultimately, this lack of user-friendliness led most viewers to find annotations unhelpful and obnoxious, pushing YouTube to remove the feature completely.

FAQs

When did YouTube shut down video annotations?

YouTube released annotations in February 2009, allowing creators to embed the feature into their videos. However, the video platform shut down its annotations editor on May 2, 2017, and removed the feature completely on January 15, 2019.

What were YouTube annotations used for?

YouTube annotations allowed creators to embed small boxes into their videos. These add-ons could be notes with different kinds of information, such as comments, corrections, and jokes, hyperlinks to other YouTube videos, or requests to viewers to subscribe to their channel. 

How do I add YouTube Cards to my videos?

YouTube cards make videos much more interactive, as they allow creators to add images, polls, and links to their videos. Here’s what you need to do to add YouTube Cards:

  1. Log in to YouTube Studio and select “Content” from the left sidebar. 
  2. Select the video in which you’d like to add YouTube Cards.
  3. Select the “Editor” option from the left menu. 
  4. Select “Info Cards,” choose the type of card you want to add to your video, and then click “Add Card.” remember that you can only add a maximum of five cards in one video. 
  5. Adjust the start time for the YouTube Card below the video. 
  6. Enter an optional message or teaser text. 
  7. Select “Save.”

How do I add End Screens to my videos?

  1. Log in to YouTube Studio and select “Content” from the left sidebar. 
  2. Select the thumbnail or title of the video in which you’d like to add YouTube End Screens.
  3. Select the “Editor” option from the left menu. 
  4. Click on “End Screens” and choose the element you wish to add to your video. 
  5. Click on “Save.” It’s important to note that you can add and customize YouTube End Screens when you’re uploading a video as well. 

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John Doe

John Doe

I am John, a tech enthusiast with a knack for breaking down complex camera, audio, and video technology. My expertise extends to social media and electronic gadgets, and I thrive on making the latest tech trends understandable and exciting for everyone. Sharing my knowledge through engaging content, I aim to connect with fellow tech lovers and novices alike, bringing the fascinating world of technology to life.

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