YouTube today announced that it will be replacing its annotations engine with what it calls End Screen and Cards, which are existing, mobile-first tools that provide many of the same functions as annotations like linking to other videos and polling viewers. YouTube says it made this change primarily because annotations didn’t work on mobile and most viewers found them obnoxious and unhelpful. The change takes effect on May 2nd, and existing annotations will continue to show up when using the desktop browser version of YouTube.
“Annotations Editor launched in 2008, before the world went mobile,” writes YouTube product manager Muli Salem in a blog post. “With 60 percent of YouTube’s watchtime now on mobile, why go through the work of creating annotations that won’t even reach the majority of your audience? End Screens and Cards work on mobile and desktop, giving you more bang for your buck.”
YouTube annotations have felt increasingly outdated and out of place. The small text boxes were meant as a way to let creators link to other videos, write in little jokes, and add ancillary information to a video much like a hyperlink or footnote of sorts. But over the years, annotation use has drastically fallen off, by 70 percent Salem says. In fact, a majority of viewers interact with annotations only to close them, so the boxes don’t obstruct the video screen. Many users turn them off altogether. So now YouTube is investing entirely in End Screens and Cards, and making both tools easier to use and faster to implement.