YouTube to axe community contributions for closed captions and subtitles
Google on Friday announced YouTube’s Community Contributions feature, which allows viewers to add closed captioning and subtitles to videos, will be discontinued on September 28, 2020. The company cites two reasons behind the discontinuation of the feature: It’s not being widely used and is a regular source of spam and abuse.
According to Google, community contributions were featured in “less than 0.001% of channels” in the past month, covering than 0.2% of watch time. Creators are, for the most part, relying on alternative captioning tools for their videos.
As The Verge points out, deaf and hard-of-hearing creators will be most affected by the feature’s removal. Several “VTubers”, or Virtual YouTubers, will also be affected, as well as content creators with significant foreign language audiences. Some content creators have already voiced their concerns, pleading with Google to create a better community contributions system rather than axing it entirely.
It’s a fine line to walk for Google. Captions and subtitles are crucial for accessibility—not just to reach deaf and hard-of-hearing viewers, but to reach viewers who speak different languages. While the community contributions feature is being canceled, captions and subtitles will still be available in YouTube videos. Creators can continue to manually add captions, while YouTube has technology that automatically adds captions to every video. The automatically generated captions are generally not as accurate as user-contributed captions, but they can be improved over time as Google continues to train its speech recognition and language translation technologies.
Even though Google said YouTube’s Community Contributions feature is rarely used, the company acknowledged the difficulty this decision might cause for some creators. As a consolation, Google said it would cover the cost of a 6-month subscription to Amara.org, a service that captions, subtitles, and translates videos.
If you currently have contributions saved as drafts, they’ll be available to publish until September 28. All contributions that have already been published will remain, and creators can manage them as they see fit.