Google is making a huge and annoying mistake.

I like Google Plus. Some of the smartest people I've ever read are on Google Plus, and the Hangout is amazing.

But Google is doing everything it can to force Google Plus on everyone, and it's pissing me off.

Yesterday, I tried to like a video on YouTube. I wasn't signed in to my Google Plus account, and this is what I saw:

Where the thumbs up and thumbs down used to be, there is now a big G+ Like button. When you go anywhere near it, you get a little popup that tells you to "upgrade to Google plus" for some reason that I don't remember, because the instant I saw it, I made a rageface.

Here's what I wrote on Tumblr:

Oh, go fuck yourself, Google. This is just as bad as companies forcing me to “like” something on Facebook before I can view whatever it is they want me to “like.”

Just let me thumbs up something, without forcing me to “upgrade” to G+, you dickheads.

The worst part of this? For a producer like me, I’m going to lose a crapton of potential upvotes for Tabletop, because the core of my audience is tech-savvy and may not want to “upgrade” to yet another fucking social network they don’t want or need.

I am adding now: Those upvotes are incredibly important to us, because we need them to earn another season of our show.

I'm even more grateful now than I was yesterday that we own the IP for Tabletop, because we can produce it ourselves, or crowdfund with Kickstarter, or something like that, if Google keeps doing things like this that will negatively affect how users can interact with us on YouTube.

I was reblogged by Neil Gaiman, who added:

I wish Google would leave the Social Network thing to others. When Google does what it does, and does it well, it changes the world. When it rides bandwagons, it’s irritating.

I’m not on Google Plus, and I suppose that I won’t be liking YouTube videos any longer.

John Green also reblogged me, and he said:

I strongly agree with this. Making it so that only google plus users can decide whether a YouTube video is worth watching benefits no one except for Google Plus: It is bad for viewers, bad for video creators, and bad for YouTube’s ability to curate and tailor videos to potential viewers.

By crippling functionality on sites Google owns (like YouTube) and forcing users to "upgrade" to a service that they may not want or need to get that functionality back, Google is making a huge and annoying mistake. You get people to enthusiastically use services by making them compelling and awesome and easy to use. You don't get people to enthusiastically use your services by forcing them to. In fact, that's probably a great way to ensure that a huge number of people who may have been interested in trying out your service never even look at it.

112 thoughts on “Google is making a huge and annoying mistake.”

  1. What’s worse for producers is when (not if) Google starts only giving preferential treatment on Google and YouTube to content that’s been shared on a Google property. Google’s plan for social is to take content and people by force rather than let them grow naturally (which doesn’t really make it a good alternative to any social network).
    On a side note, really loving Tabletop and the whole Geek and Sundry channel!

  2. I’ve seen a few other people complain about this, and what I gather is it’s a combination of Google gradually switching accounts and how much you let Google track your internet usage/accounts (ie. If they can tell that you have Google+ even if you’re not logged into it).

  3. Site traffic can be used for a “next season” though YT views & likes are currently the norm. It also helps with ads and sponsors.

  4. I do not have have the G+ buttons bellow videos at all. Whether I’m logged into Google or not. I normally use Chrome, so for testing, I installed and ran Firefox, went to you Youtube, never logged in, and I still don’t have G+ buttons, I have thumbs up and down.

  5. A few things:
    Having a GMail account does not require you to have a G+ account. If you have a G+ account you’re not using, you can disconnect it from your Gmail in the account settings. Problem solved.
    Google drive doesn’t have terms that grant them ownership of your files, and their terms are in fact better and tighter than those of DropBox regarding what they’re permitted to do with your files.
    You have to be logged in to Youtube to thumb something up. If you’re not, you’re given a “sign in or sign up” prompt. I haven’t seen what the new Like button pops up, because apparently very few people are seeing it, but I’d be surprised if it were significantly different from that. Happy to be proved wrong, of course, but emphasis on the word “proved”. :)

  6. I’m still annoyed at the fact that I can’t stay signed in to my Gmail account and my YouTube account at the same time. They aren’t the same thing, I don’t WANT to link them, and I don’t want to have to log out of email every time I want to use YouTube with my proper username, favourites etc.

  7. What’s worse is this – I have separate email accounts for separate activities. I did not tie my YouTube account to my G+ account – why? Because why would I want the douche-nozzle crowd on YouTube to be able to find their way back to my G+ account – which is supposed to use My Real Name Only. And then? You aren’t supposed to have more than on G+ account (since you are supposed to only use your real identity and then you are only supposed to have one of those). So. Wtf?
    Even if it is just in testing for “<1%” of people looking at it, it’s still a bullshit move. It was bad enough having to tie my YouTube account to my gmail account (apparently just because I had one and used that email to sign up on YouTube), but why… This is like that Internet Explorer/Microsoft thing all over again.

  8. I disagree. Promoting leaves an option for functionality. This would be like Comcast saying that you watching X program doesn’t count toward its ratings because you are watching it on DirectTV instead. (IE, IF they pushed this change through, non-Google+ members would be completely unable to up-vote videos. If they don’t get up-votes, then all these series that Google/YouTube just spent $100m launching run the risk of utter failure due to a large portion of their viewer base being unable to vote without being forced into having a G+ account.)

  9. I tried looking at Table Top on Youtube signed in and out in Chrome and IE 9, and I couldn’t replicate it. So It’s not entirely clear to me what is happening here… I haven’t gone through strong testing (like clearing cookies, caches, testing in several browsers, private browsing modes, etc)
    I agree this is a problem, but I’d like to know more about the problem itself.

  10. I am in the search engine optimization industry and I can tell you Google is pushing Google+ and it won’t stop. They aren’t doing it because they think they are good at social – even they admit the are not good at social. They are pushing it so they can serve search results based on your G+ activity, location, etc. If you are signed in to G+ they not only use your existing location to serve results, but the location you have indicated in your G+ account, AND the activity you have engaged in while logged in (liking YouTube videos, etc.). G+ is also a heavily weighted part of content authorship. So Wil, let’s say you connect your site to your G+ page by adding the rel=author tag to your pages, your content can actually rank better because you gave in to the G. Doesn’t have to be in terms of G+ — but people are seeing better rankings that way. It’s sad to me, as much as my industry “depends” on Google in many ways, the decisions being made are truly going against “don’t be evil” and definitely make me think of you saying, “Google, Don’t be a Dick!” 😉

  11. I’m a big fan of TableTop (my wife is too, having sworn off most TV, will watch this with me along with other boardgame reviews). I’m a longtime BGGer ( And I want to actually touch on the idea of crowdfunding TableTop if the need arises – give a thought. It’s not a crowdfunding hub, it’s a plugin to allow you to do it on your own site. I think Geek & Sundry and TableTop have enough fans and reach that you can get a successful campaign going quite handily on your own website.

  12. I’ve been experimenting all morning – and it’s definitely a test – the G+ forced like option seems to happen only about 1% of the time, and it occurs randomly on videos.
    In the name of science I’ve now seen more pets acting cute/funny/strange than any human being ought to see.

  13. What part of “Free” don’t you get? You are not paying for any of this. Are you even a Google shareholder? You probably do not even click on ads. Use it or don’t use it. Why would you waste time getting upset about it – it is free.

  14. Has anyone officially responded to this yet?
    I’ve been told that while the button says “G+ Like” and includes a popup that you can use to share the video on G+, you should not actually need a G+ account to “Like” something.
    If you don’t like the popup saying “want to share this on G+”, that’s understandable. However, that doesn’t seem like it’s the same thing as not letting you “Like” things at all.

  15. I love how “free” makes some people think it’s not okay to give feedback on something.
    “This tastes horrible!”
    Seriously, why can’t people give their feedback just because it is “free”? And dude, if there are ads, it’s not actually free.

  16. Ironically, I had already created a dual existence for myself on the internet years ago. I have a gmail account that I use for everything that I don’t want my real name displayed (It has a nickname in the name field) and I created a second gmail account for my real name, to use for businesses and family stuff. When G+ came around, I signed up with both accounts. When I’m browsing the internet, I’m always logged into my nickname account but when I want to post something on G+ that’s a little more personal, I switch over to that one. It always reverts back to my nickname account because that’s my default.
    Kind of weird, I guess, but I like having the separation and switching accounts in Google is really easy.

  17. Hard to believe this is the company that had the motto “Don’t be evil” They are getting to be terrible, tying everything together even if you don’t want it.
    +1 on your article, I don’t need a “like” or “+1g” button!

  18. “because the core of my audience is tech-savvy and may not want to “upgrade” to yet another fucking social network they don’t want or need.”
    I’m not so sure about this. You might as well come to the conclusion that if your audience is tech savvy, a lot of them are already on G+. Geeks are the core of G+ users.

  19. I miss Google Buzz and sharing in google reader personally. I had a huge group of friends that used Buzz and it’s google reader integration via shared items that basically went away when it was converted to google+. I understand why they did it but it still was not a good choice for everyone.

  20. Wil, not happening to me…
    but then my Youtube is linked to my gmail, so i guess that might explain it…
    (nice ragin’, completely agree w/ Google forcing G+ on too many people… cmon, let the people decide!)

  21. Google never use to bother me, until they began taking over everything and forcing all these silly changes. Now, I avoid them as much as possible… unfortunately though, due to needing an account in order to use both you-tube and blogger, have not been able to completely wash my hands of them. Sigh.
    Hopefully, this whole you-tube G+ liking system is simply a test, as what some of the other commenters have said, and does not become a permanent feature. Otherwise, well, that’s just gonna stink!

  22. I don’t blame Google for wanting to unify their services, but the piecemeal, semi-concealed approach they are taking is wrong-headed. I would prefer it if they did it openly and systematically. But perhaps they aren’t entirely sure themselves where or how far they are going to take this.

  23. I am a Google shareholder. I do, in fact, click on the occasional ad. Now that we’ve established that my opinion (as a shareholder) is what counts, my official stance is that an ad-funded service must rely on user feedback to ensure those users will continue to use the site and hence generate more ad revenue.
    I’ve not once, as a shareholder, voted (or had the opportunity to vote) on whether a Google+ account should be mandatory to like videos on YouTube. I suspect they must be of the “user opinions matter” on the issue as well.

  24. I have to say, a super tiny benefit to this whole situation is that if they had not made that change, you wouldn’t ave mentioned the importance of liking a video on youtube, and I’m sure most people who read this immediately went to youtube and liked both episodes. I know that’s what I did.

  25. “You get people to enthusiastically use services by making them compelling and awesome and easy to use. You don’t get people to enthusiastically use your services by forcing them to. In fact, that’s probably a great way to ensure that a huge number of people who may have been interested in trying out your service never even look at it.”

  26. Stop ranting. So you’re afraid that because your users are technical, they won’t rate your video out of principle? If that’s the case, your same users will understand, or even applaud you if you started using another service to host your content. This could even be good for you.
    Also, any smart person that builds a business model on top of a service that they aren’t paying for would have a contingency plan for when that service stops meeting their expectations. And it will do that, because you are not the customer, the advertisers on YouTube and Google+ are the customers, you are the product. And so, when things like this happen, it shouldn’t cause you a sweat, because it simply means you enact your contingency plan.

  27. This reminds me of the story of Google Reader: it used to be a social network in its own right, because people would “like” feed items, and you’d be able to gouge popularity based on these “likes”. Since Google replaced the “like” functionality with g+ sharing, this has stopped, and you seldom see anyone using the g+ button. I don’t use it because I usually only want to share my “like” with other people subscribing to the same feed, not with my g+ circles. Almost no one I know uses g+, so it’s just not relevant to me. Google destroyed a good thing with their forced wannabe-Facebook features. I’ve lost a ton of goodwill towards Google as a company because of it. They also lost my goodwill with the forced “personal results” feature in search. It would be fine if you could simply turn the social search off, but instead it’s designed to make you jump through a hoop before it’s turned off persistently.

  28. I truly hate to be a ragamuffin’ here but do any of you actually read tech news? How about Google’s blog? Seriously, this intergration has been going on for quite some time and if you actually took the time to read the blog you would see what Google is implenting, for example this post in re to Google Plus,
    Let’s be honest too, shall we…it’s Google’s site and they can do whatever they want to create the type of experience they feel is best for their user base. Is that so wrong? Don’t you do it too? Heck I had to select one of several types just to make a comment here. Doesn’t everybody do it now adays? The interent will only get more social.
    On another note, I am totally shocked by the vulgarity coming from someone I use to think was a really cool person, perhaps the Star Trek version of you plays strongly in my mind, but I never expected such a tech savy adult such as yourself to be so narrow minded and so ill informed. Such a sad state.
    No, I am not a Google advocate just someone who keeps up on tech news from around the globe. Maybe you should at least read other tech sites once a week to keep up. But what do I know, I’m from Canada, eh :)

  29. I’m still on the like/dislike system, too, even logged into my YouTube account. So I must not be the 1%, but I so already knew that. 😉
    I hope this goes away, rather than gets rolled out to everyone, because like others have said, I don’t need another social media platform and don’t want to join G+ just to like vids. Sigh. Le stupid.

  30. Just one point I had like to make here. No one blames Facebook for only offering the Like button on content hosted on their network. They would never offer the Tweet or the +1 Button on their network. Just the Like button that is owned and controlled by them. Google still provide the option to Facebook Like, Twitter Tweet along with their +1 button. Why are they being evil? Ok, they have removed the option to dislike a video. What is the big deal? Google +1 is just another like button. You do not want to use Google Plus, do not use it. Google can make you join Google+ but cannot force you to use it right?

  31. Gotta love the title of the article over at The Register Wil…
    “Star Trek’s Wesley Crusher blasts Google+ landgrab
    Wil Wheaton asks blogosphere to Stand By Him on Choc Factory outrage”
    Hope you & yours are well…

  32. There is a very valid reason to not want the +1 G+ on Youtube videos. Youtube is/was one of the last bastions on the interwebs where you could actually post something and have no one know who you are. With the “real names only” Google plus, that becomes an issue. I give you case in point. I am an atheist. I live in the dead center of the bible belt. While in an interview they cannot ask me my religion, they sure as heck can Google my name. Now I’m certain there will be ways to block off and privatize the things you +1 (I hope) – but I really don’t want potential employers seeing that I +1’ed a Penn and Teller pro-atheist video. In this economy, I have to be careful. Basically what this tells me is I am slowly becoming unable to express myself at all online without the fear and threat of potential employers seeing it and judging me by that. Can I not just have a place where my opinion doesn’t have to be shouted to the world, but can still be expressed? Sadly if this happens I’ll probably have to just not “+1″ videos – I really can’t afford the potential problems. Sure I can try to be completely diligent about it – but something always gets forgotten. It’s the same reason I don’t post things on Facebook, even though I have my security set high. The potential risk is too great. And please don’t tell me ‘well just move’ as an answer to my problem. I have to stay here to assist my aging parents.

  33. what happened is that google is an advertising company. it’s been an advertising company for a long, long time, but it’s been able to tread lightly in the past due to the superior value it provided it’s customers (advertisers).
    facebook changed that. facebook, due to a long history of questionable behaviour, is able to offer advertisers more. google finally has a rival it has to actually work at competing against and unfortunately that rival is facebook, and that sets the tone for how that competition is going to play out.

  34. I 100% agree Wil. I’m one of those people who have no use or want for G+ and won’t “upgrade” to it just to thumbs up a video. One of the beauties up the thumbs up is it takes a second to do. Having to register for a service I don’t want to do it destroys that.
    Is there a way we can still thumbs up those videos without G+, or is that option totally gone now?

  35. Google is filled with a lot of smart engineers, but they’ve become a management driven advertising company, not an engineer run visionary company like they used to be IMO. I think that history will show that Google really screwed up Google+ by trying to clone Facebook. A clone of a popular social site without any users is worthless. Google probably should have tried several different smaller approaches with smaller teams and tried to find something that people liked rather than simply try and copy Facebook’s success. We all know that Google wanted to duplicate Facebook’s success to try and get access to all of this social data for their search experience. And between all of the big brands trying to promote their Facebook pages even in TV ads, the sheer number of companies listed at that do nothing other than promote business pages, and the way that the market is reacting to Facebook’s IPO, we know that they’re getting significant traction that Google wants to emulate. Even though it will take years, I think Pinterest has got a shot of being the solid #2 to Facebook rather than Google+ just because they’re offering a different experience. If all Google+ can offer is a Facebook clone that doesn’t have active users, then there’s no incentive really created for people to flock to it. I could be wrong, but I see Pinterest taking off and Google+ being largely left behind here and Google continuing to fail as long as managers and not engineers are really guiding major policy.

  36. The funny thing about this is, apparently ad blockers will block the “G+ Like” button completely – I know mine seems to have done that. There’s nothing but an empty space where you show that button to be, for me.
    I was wondering why Google had decided not to let me like or dislike videos anymore, and now I know – it’s because they’re doing something stupid!
    Thanks for the explanation!

  37. We had the same issue with Reader. They made it so difficult to share stories with just the people on the list. Not to mention loss of ease of use of the commenting system.
    So some buddies of mine and I got together and started building a replacement. It largely looks and works like the old Google Reader. It didn’t take us long to do.
    With the exception of Google Search, I’d say none of their sites/products are irreplaceable, and some just down right woeful (I’m looking at you Picasa! I want a damn image backup, not an image sharing service!).

  38. Google has always done a/b tests to see what users like. This is not new.
    Based on the TOS, data can cross products. If you have, for example, different home and work persona, segregate them for real. Either use incognito windows/private browsing, or create different accounts for the different public persona you have. I use both depending on what I am trying to do.

  39. I’m assuming this is a limited test thing since I’m not seeing this either, however there is one thing that is interesting to me:
    I am adding now: Those upvotes are incredibly important to us, because we need them to earn another season of our show.
    Really? I’ve never clicked a like or dislike button on youtube ever, this seems like a really odd metric as only a certain subset of people will bother, surely? Why aren’t you tracked on ‘number of people who actually watched the whole episode through’ which I would have thought youtube could track?
    Do I need to be clicking the thumbs up on every Tabletop? Because I will if that’s what it takes to get a second season!

  40. Way to fly off the handle without a handle on the situation, Wil. If you want compartmentalized, individual services with no interconnect, by all means use those. Meaningful correlation and federation is not evil. Of course, this helps tailor their ads to you even more, but Google is not an NPO and you are not directly paying them anything for their services. Im summary: wah.

  41. Just in case it hasn’t been said… (because I only read about half the comments…)
    Google, Facebook, and other large websites that “upgrade” or completely change their sites usually do a test group or beta for smaller groups than everyone out there. So some people aren’t seeing what Wil is seeing probably because they only released it to some of their users. I have two different GMail accounts and they look different because one has newer/beta/test content.
    Same/similar reason some people on Facebook have been forced to use their new timeline MONTHS ago (like me :( ) but some people still get to use the old site.
    Or at least… I’m guessing that’s what’s going on.

  42. But! But! But ….. you are doing exactly the same thing on your blog. When I tried to comment here, on this post, I was forced to login from one of several social media ‘handles’ or to sign up for another in a long string of Social Media sites
    I refuse to use Facebook or Twitter for this purpose because whenever I have logged in with those in the past, all of a sudden every comment I make is tweeted, or inserted onto my Facebook wall for everyone I know to see. I want a certain amount of anonymity (although I do tend to use the same nom de plume ) I don’t feel that everyone I know wants to be kept apprised of my opinions of your blog.. or anything else at a moments notice.
    I have never linked any of my social media personas together and resent being forced to do so to express an opinion about something. If Google forces me to sign up for G+ I will close my YouTube account and stop using Google services altogether.
    It is getting easier to just not comment at all rather than deal with this crap.
    Homogeneous internet = Stifled opinion..IMHO

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