The new comments don't look much different on the surface, but behind the scenes, much has changed.
Google has revamped the comment section of YouTube with a system requiring a Google+ account or YouTube channel. The quality of comments at the world's biggest video site has always been notoriously bad, but will hooking it up to a separate social network improve the experience, or just frustrate users?
If you want to comment now, you'll have to use either your existing Google+ account (which you likely linked to YouTube recently when Google did a large merge of accounts) or create a YouTube channel with a new name.
This may confuse some; the only choices are to use a "real name" account or start a channel? What if you just want to leave comments or upvote a video as "cakelover2046"? It may help to think of "channel" as another name for a YouTube-specific account. After all, your old YouTube account (before Google+) also acted as a channel, it just wasn't always called that.
It's not necessarily intuitive, but by creating a channel and commenting using that, you can retain some degree of anonymity when commenting on YouTube. Just click the comment box and you'll be prompted to use your Google+ account or make a channel. Clicking the bottom link will let you make a new one with whatever name you please. This also creates a new Google+ account, however, and it's all linked together on Google's systems.
After this, be sure to go to your settings page and disable things like ads and newsletters, which you are automatically opted into. Then visit your new Google+ page (there should be a link in the bar at the upper right), and do the same thing. Note that, strangely, if you log out of your new channel, you'll also be logged out of things like Gmail and Google Drive.
Confused? So are we, and if the like/dislike count on the system's announcement video is any indication, so are thousands of others.
Thumbs-downs outnumbered thumbs-ups 12 to 1 at the time this screenshot was taken.
The new comment system is in effect now, and you can check it out at any YouTube video. The old comments are still visible, but are trapped in stasis: You can't reply to or rate them. A YouTube representative told NBC News in an email that the the team is "looking into" adding replies or ranking to the old comments, but there's no guarantee.
Hopefully it will all be worth it and the quality of YouTube comments will go up. The ability to switch between "global" and "personal" results, as you can now do on YouTube comments, didn't catch on with Google search, but it may make more sense here. We'll know as soon as everyone gets their way through the switchover process.
Devin Coldewey is a contributing writer for NBC News Digital. His personal website is coldewey.cc.
First published November 7 2013, 4:12 PM