YouTube announced their plans to discontinue the use of community captions last Friday, and neither creators nor viewers are happy about their decision.
The community captions feature on YouTube allows fans to add subtitles to creators’ videos once they have been approved by the creator. Many fans, especially those in the deaf, hard-of-hearing, disabled and non-English speaking communities are especially upset at YouTube’s decision.
Two other methods of showing captions on videos will still be available. Creators can either add captions themselves or viewers can turn on the auto-generated captions. Neither of these options are as reliable in terms of providing subtitles as the community captions are for multiple reasons. Not all creators take the time to type their scripts into the caption generator or go through their entire video and type out what they say manually. The auto-generator tends to provide incorrect captions, which can easily lead to confusion for deaf and hard-of-hearing viewers.
YouTube has made a point in offering an “alternative” way for creators to use captions through the use of a paid subscription service. YouTube has offered creators who have used the community captions service on at least three videos in the past six months a free six-month subscription to the subtitling service Amara. After that six-month trial period, creators will have to pay for one of four different degrees of subscription status, each at different prices. Essentially, YouTube is sacrificing the convenience of letting fans create subtitles for the profit that comes from making creators pay for them instead.
The petition “Don’t remove community captions from YouTube” on Change.org is almost to its goal of 500,000 signatures. If YouTube’s plan to remove this option stays on track, community captions will be removed as of Sept. 28.