YouTube is trying really hard to make YouTube.com your new TV. Instead of turning on the television and flipping through the 338 channels, they're hoping in the near future you'll just open a browser and go to YouTube… and surf their millions of "channels" instead. That's what the most recent redesign was all about–helping you find channels and videos more easily that are of interest to you.
And along with the push for lean-back viewing comes also a push to completely forget the past. To YouTube, there is only today… no yesterday, no last week, and definitely no last year. Don't believe me? Go to YouTube.com and click Browse.
You'll see this:
In days gone by, I used to be able to click on that "Most Viewed Today" heading at the top, and I'd end up at a browse interface that allowed me to change the historical filter to either "Today," "In the last week," "In the last year" and "All time." Now, however… all I see is this:
No filter options… none at all. It is now flat-out impossible to view the most popular videos of the last seven days, or the most-subscribed channels of the last month.
Now, YouTube isn't giving up on filters altogether–they're still working on keyword-search. Here's a screenshot of a search I just did for "reelseo," and you can clearly see the "filters" drop down is still there for keyword-based searches.
So I can see see historical YouTube data on views and subscriptions and such… but only when I have a keyword or topic to start with.
But if I simply want to know the most viewed video of the last 30 days… I'm out of luck now.
A Method To The Madness?
I've been hoping for years that YouTube would actually give us more filters and more control over browsing… not less. So I'm scratching my head at why they're going the opposite direction, but I think it has to mean something about their intentions for how people find video content.
I think it's obvious that they want to be like TV… very "in the moment" and immediate. And yet, one of the things that's made online video and web series successful is the ability to watch a piece of content anytime you like.
Take Lillyhammer, for instance, the new Netflix original series. It launched a few days ago, with all 8 episodes of its innaugural season going online all at once. Why? Because then people can watch it at their pace, instead of having to wait 7 days between new episodes. That's the future of episodic content.
But over at YouTube, it's all about today… right now. And while I totally understand the emphasis on the now… aren't there probably still millions of viewers comign to YouTube every day without any real idea what they want to see? Is YouTube suggesting that their algorithm has gotten so good that we don't even need to browse anymore… that everything we could possibly like is already being suggested to us by the incredibly smart new home page? I certainly hope not, because we're still a long way off from that.
It's not that YouTube doesn't want you to find older videos… it's that they don't want you to find it by browsing, apparently. They want you to "like" videos you like and subscribe to channels you like so that they can feed you more of the content you want. It's also entirely possible the date filters will come back… that maybe their disappearance is only temporary while YouTube tweaks some things. However, I'm not holding my breath.
If you want to briowse what's popular, I hope you're not any kind of amateur historian, because you'll only find today's content.