Everyone Controls Rewind … Except You.

Daniel Ju

YouTube released it’s celebration of 2018 on Dec. 6, showcasing the trends and creators that had significance this year. Yet it was drastically different from every other rewind so far, a change that was noticed and disliked to never seen proportions.

The animosity towards this year’s Rewind stemmed from the poor reception that “Shape of 2017” was met with, the YouTube rewind of 2017, which was evidenced by the number of dislikes present on that video, 3.8 million likes to 1.9 million likes, a sharp contrast to previous rewinds. In an effort to regain the support of a large section of its audience, YouTube attempted this year to put emphasis on the fact that it was listening to everyone’s feedback and opinions, as seen by the title given to this year’s rewind “Everyone Controls Rewind,” yet was met with huge backlash for doing the exact opposite, seen by the sheer amount of dislikes present on “Everyone Controls Rewind.”

The amount of dislikes, at the time of writing, was a staggering 13 million dislikes, more than every single dislike combined from the rewinds of 2010 to 2017. In fact, “Everyone Controls Rewind,” is the most disliked YouTube video of all time, with an 85 percent dislike percentage. Rewind also accumulated the most dislikes over time compared to any other video. Clearly, the dissonance between YouTube and it’s users is existent, at an unprecedented degree. In order to understand how YouTube got so disconnected from its audience, it is crucial for us to understand exactly what YouTube went through for the past two years.

YouTube’s disconnection from its community started with its advertisers, as bizarre as that may seem. More precisely, an event in late 2017 called the “Adpocalypse”, a play on the words “ad” and “apocalypse.” Apocalypse was a period of time in YouTube’s history when major companies pulled millions of advertisements across YouTube, after it was brought to light that advertisements were being played on highly controversial and downright illicit videos, specifically hate-promoting channels and terrorist propaganda.

YouTube had always relied on the user base to report such content, and quickly, in order to regain the backing of major companies, rolled out an algorithm that immediately flagged controversial videos as “not advertiser friendly.” While it may have seemed like a novel idea, the algorithm was at the same time flagging millions of videos that reported, spoke, or parodied sensitive topics. As a result, channels that revolved around reporting the news, creating satire, and even educating audiences were demonetized, without any regard to the actual content of the videos.

For nearly two months, channels and YouTube lost revenue, while advertisers received less and less videos to place ads on because so many were becoming “not advertiser friendly.” All three parties of YouTube suffered under Adpocalypse. Fortunately, Adpocalypse slowly receded due to the betterment of the algorithm, but YouTube, then and now, is still haunted and changed because of Adpocalypse.

The other piece to solving YouTube Rewind’s failure is by looking at the second massive problem on YouTube, copyright strikes. After adpocalypse left in place a powerful but dysfunctional algorithm, YouTube revamped their Content ID, a way for YouTube to detect if content was being used in other people’s videos, in accordance to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act of 1998, which mandates that copyright holders must notify users that copyright has been infringed upon.

It became easier for copyright holders, with a better algorithm, to find people using their content, and use it as a means to an end, usually in ways more harmful than good. YouTube’s rivals in the music industry, for example, dislike the fact that music can be listened to for free on YouTube, and that royalties are not enough compensation for the sheer amount of viewers listening to music. Film companies, too, often striked a video that gave a negative review so that there would be less negative reviews of their films. Finally, other creators would even flag other channels for using content, in retaliation to a disagreeable opinion or out of simple greed.

On the other end of the spectrum, content creators pushed for YouTube to acknowledge fair use laws, arguing against the larger corporations that using clips with adjustment was not something that could be striked. YouTube was essentially caught in the middle, and had to either align themselves with their own community, or big sources of revenue and camaraderie in large companies. While it can’t be said for certain, YouTube seems to be biased towards the larger companies, as seen by numerous content creators coming out and saying that dozens of videos had been striked, freezing revenue for stretches of time. As a result, channels, especially those with lower viewership, often struggle to settle disputes with large companies and YouTube itself, essentially leaving their revenue frozen and with creativity in content, because channels cannot run the risk of using assets that are not theirs.

We have seen YouTube’s lack of love, nor respect, for the people that make YouTube what it is. Content creators have taken the brunt of the mistakes YouTube has made, and this translates easily into the viewer’s dislike of Rewind. Rewind is yet again YouTube’s attempts to appeal to advertisers, as they are the primary sources of revenue for YouTube, but have been dettered from YouTube because of Adpocalypse. Rewind 2018 was YouTube’s way of enticing advertisers to once again advertise on YouTube.

In order to entice advertisers, YouTube had to shave off the slightest bit of controversy. That’s why beloved, highly followed yet controversial figures did not make an appearance in Rewind, the people that represented the changes in YouTube and the events that they were a part of. Despite their indisputable influence on YouTube this year, and their massive followings, YouTube Rewind this year was not about promoting your interests or the community of YouTube.

This year, Rewind was about creating a facade, a golden image, to attract advertisers. As a result, a revelation is brought to life, a truth sugar coated over and over again until it reaches a disgusting sweetness. Everyone did control Rewind, because the only people that matter to YouTube at the moment are themselves and the advertisers.


Spotlight, Youtube. 2018, December 6th. YouTube Rewind 2018: Everyone Controls Rewind. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YbJOTdZBX1g