New YouTube feature is handy for viewers but not so great for content creators

YouTube has launched a new feature that allows viewers to see the most-watched parts of a given video, indicated by a semi-translucent graph that appears above the video’s progress bar.

Announced on the official YouTube community site, the feature is now rolling out to Android and iOS devices, as well as desktop computers. The automated chart, which is driven entirely by community engagement, is joined by a handful of other new features coming to YouTube, including a dedicated video loop feature and auto-generated video chapters.

So how does this new chart work? When stepping through a video via its progress bar, you’ll see the graph appear just above, spanning the length of the video display. Higher bumps in the graph indicate the parts of the video that viewers watch the most. This, in theory, highlights the best or most interesting parts of a given video.

(Image credit: Google/YouTube)

The feature could prove to be a boon for regular viewers, especially those who might be shorter than others. Examples of how this can be useful include the ability to identify and jump straight to a YouTuber’s initial reaction to a big announcement, or even the best parts of a football highlights reel.

If the graph works as expected, viewers returning to a video multiple times should be able to quickly identify and watch the parts that stood out to them the most. This could be particularly handy if a video lacks chapter selection – another particularly useful feature that was introduced to YouTube in 2020.


Analysis: a double-edged sword for YouTube?

YouTube’s new embedded video graphic sounds like a fantastic feature and time-saving measure for regular viewers, but we’re not sure content creators will appreciate it as much.

Indeed, viewer retention (the total time spent watching a video) is a crucial metric for YouTube’s algorithm. Essentially, the more time a viewer spends watching a video, the more “valuable” it appears to YouTube’s artificial eyes.

For small to medium-sized content creators on the platform, a graph that gives viewers a visual indication of the most interesting parts of their videos could have a huge impact on how audiences consume that content. And not in a good way.

The feature can encourage a more simplistic viewing experience. Which, again, is handy for viewers with limited time, but widespread use of the feature when first viewing a video could directly affect its placement in the algorithm by reducing retention of viewers.

There’s also the danger that those most-watched moments, as decided by the community, are robbed of important context like key information that gives meaning to the moment, or the buildup that makes them truly special.

Ultimately, therefore, we are quite wary of this new feature. The benefits to viewers are obvious, but are perhaps outweighed by the potential negative effect a Highlights Chart could have on content creators, especially those lucky enough to use YouTube as a source of income. .

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