YouTube Recommendations: New Features Shed Light on What You're Watching

YouTube's at least trying to clean up its algorithm.

The red and white arrow-like press-button YouTube logo

Youtube announced new features to help users control what videos it shows them. These include the ability to customize what they see and get more information about why they’re seeing it.

Youtube announced the developments in a new blog post published Wednesday. The move follows a series of media reports about Youtube’s role in putting individuals on a path to online radicalization.

The new features will begin shipping immediately, and introduce filtering capabilities to both the homepage and the Up Next function. The features will also let you toggle between topics you might be interested in, such as baking videos, late-night talk shows or your favorite music genre. What you see is based on your pre-existing personalized suggestions.

The goal is to make it easier to curate your own information flow, as opposed to relying entirely on automated algorithms. Depending on your selections, recommendations will be based on videos related to the one you’re watching, other videos published by the channel you’re watching, and other areas Youtube thinks you might be interested in. At the moment, in the Up Next section of Youtube, it’s just a singular stream of videos.

Screenshot of the new "do not recommend" feature. 


Importantly, Youtube will also allow users to tell Youtube not to recommend channels. To do so, users just need to tap the three-dot menu on a video, then select “Don’t recommend channel.”

Users will also get more information about why a video was recommended to them. Based on your interests, the Youtube algorithm will periodically surface channels and videos you hadn’t seen previously. Starting soon, information explaining the recommendation will appear in a small box underneath the video and may say, for example, that you were shown something because other viewers of a channel you watch also watched videos in this channel. Before, users were mostly left guessing.

This is the latest step in YouTube’s quest to tackle the huge amount of radicalized or misleading content on the platform. Numerous news organizations have documented the role Youtube recommendations have played in sending people down internet rabbit holes that can lead to radicalization and perpetuate conspiracy theories. With the new features, you should be able to get a sense of what slightly problematic content put you on a path to something worse.

Screenshot of the feature which shows users why some videos are recommended. 


“Although we try our best to suggest videos you’ll enjoy, we don’t always get it right, so we are giving you more controls for when we don’t,” Essam El-Dardiry, product manager at YouTube, wrote in the blog post.

The timeline for the rollout varies. You can already remove channels if you’re using the YouTube app for Android and iOS. The ability to find related topics on the homepage and Up Next section will be available for signed-in users in English on the YouTube app for Android. It will be available on iOS, desktop and other languages soon.

Finally, the ability to see more information about why something is recommended to you is available on the YouTube app for iOS today, and will be available on Android and desktop soon.

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