product thoughts

YouTube has given creators the ability to alter posted videos, so it should also give users a way of knowing if a video has been edited.

I swore I’d seen it.

It was the day of the Samsung Fold launch, and I had watched a few videos from big-name tech channels on YouTube to quickly get up to speed.

One of the videos I watched said the Fold was rated for a certain number of … “folds” …, a particularly low number, and I was looking to include that in a headline. Problem was, when asked by a colleague where I saw the detail, I couldn’t find where I saw it on YouTube. The detail turned out to be wrong anyway, and we moved on to other stuff.

But after work was over, I came back to it: I thought I knew which video had that detail… but had no luck finding it. I then watched all the videos I’d seen that day multiple times, checked their transcripts, and checked my browser history to make sure the videos I checked were the ones I’d watched. The line with the “folds” detail was not uttered anywhere in them. Had I misremembered?

Reddit clearly shows when comments have been edited, by simply adding an asterisk

What if one of the videos had been altered? That seemed like a crazy notion. I never knew you could do that on YouTube, and none of the videos had any sort of “edited” markings, like the ones you see on edited Facebook posts and Reddit comments (and even edited YouTube comments, for that matter).

After some digging, I found out YouTube does let you alter public videos by snipping bits out of them. This could completely change the meaning of a video. It seems like YouTube quietly released this feature via its new editing tools some time over the last couple of years. The colleague I mentioned earlier in the article was even more shocked than I was that this was a thing.

Edited videos have no “edited” markings that I could find. Any snipped content does not show in the auto-generated transcripts either.

Some big YouTubers at least note when they’ve altered videos, but it’s completely voluntary, and I’m sure that many do not.

All edited-down videos, regardless of creator or view count, should have an asterisk/Edited label next to their time stamp (ideally, that users could click to watch the original or see a changelog of). I think it’s an easy and necessary fix. Heck, YouTube shows when YouTube comments are edited, why not the video itself?

When I first discovered that (quietly) editing YouTube posted videos was a thing, I wrote about it here and (tried it out on a video of my own as well). So this has at least been the status quo for months.

What I said then, I will say again:

YouTube: Make it possible for users on your platform to know if a YouTube video has been edited after it’s been posted. It’s insane that I can clip out chunks of a video and there is no record (as far is the public is concerned) of me having done so … get even higher marks if you include a changelog of what’s been altered! It should also not just be for videos with a lot of (say, 100K+) views, it should apply to videos of all sizes. I think the fact you don’t do this just gives everyone one less reason to trust your platform.

YouTube limits this editing to videos with under 100K views, but the restriction does not apply to those in the YouTube Partner Program, a major loophole. Actually, both are major loopholes.

YouTube as a platform is already mystifying enough, why has it made the rabbit hole deeper?

Edit: After thinking about it more, I believe this breaks YouTube’s timestamped (“share at”) links. So, if a user shares a timestamp link (?t=55), and then the creator cuts X seconds from the beginning of the video, the timestamp link will start X seconds after the user intended it to.