YouTube has announced its intent to discontinue community contributions on September 28th.
Community contributions allows users to add captions, subtitles and descriptions to videos. It's a popular feature for disabled users and those who require subtitles in a different language.
In a Google support post, the company stated that "this feature was rarely used and had problems with spam/abuse so we're removing them to focus on other creator tools".
While YouTube is discontinuing its own captioning feature, the company states that creators can still generate captions using third party services. It will also offer a 6 months subscription to premium subtitling platform Amara.org.
Read the room
Creators are currently able to toggle the feature on and off - and according to the platform - only 0.2 per cent of watch time is made up of viewers using any form of community caption.
The tool is also ripe for abuse, even though transcriptions are subject to a review process by YouTube. As spotted by Liam O'Dell, top creator JT showcased a few instances of the community captions tool being used to troll popular YouTubers.
What is more prevalent, however, is that the discontinuation of the feature is a nerf for accessibility on YouTube. Deaf creators are reliant on the feature to communicate with their audience and vice versa.
YouTuber and accessibility advocate Rikki Poynter has been vouching for the tool for months. Speaking to TenEighty back in April, she stated, “while I do acknowledge and have called out the fact that the feature gets abused by trolls, I know that the feature brings accessibility that we didn’t have before to the table.
“Community contributions gave us more captioned channels and now we will risk having less of that. I’m also taking issue with the fact that this channel doesn’t caption their stuff properly, especially on videos about captions.
“It’s inaccessible, difficult to read, and just shouldn’t look that way coming from YouTube."
It also locks smaller creators out of being able to provide subtitles in their native language, as well as other languages they don't speak. Hiring a translator or paying for an external transcription service is a luxury that some creators cannot afford.
YouTuber Olly Thorn tweeted that it isn't currently "financially or practically viable" for him to provide subtitles other than English, and up to now he has relied on the kindness of his community to provide additional captioning.
A petition has been launched to urge YouTube to reconsider the discontinuation of the community captions feature.