Gone are the days when YouTube viewers could be as nasty as they wanna be—anonymously, that is. The video-sharing site now requires commenters to sign in with a Google+ account, meaning that whatever they say will be attached to their real names. And people are not happy about it.
YouTube comments are infamous for being just about the worst on the entire Internet. In the eight years since its creation, the comments sections on the video site have seemingly become a global platform for the lowest common denominator. (If you were ever interested in completely losing your faith in humanity, try reading the comments below a video of a little boy performing a routine to a Christina Aguilera song.) The quality of conversations leave something to be desired, and things typically devolve into insults regarding sexual orientation or physical appearance.
Attaching an identity to comments is simply the direction on which the Internet has been moving. More and more corporations, sites, and blogs now use third-party login services, requiring users to sign through their Facebook, Twitter, or Google accounts. And people are continually being faced with the real-life consequences of what they say and do online.
Three years ago, a former model successfully sued Google to reveal the identities of nasty YouTube commenters who called her a "whore." It was only a matter of time that the site would change its policies.
YouTube users are pissed, and are making it known in the comments of a video explaining the new commenting system, mostly through the use of ASCII art depicting swastikas and dicks. Someone even started a Change.org petition over what they perceive as YouTube's "censorship." It would seem people really want to be able to call other people "faggots" anonymously. Because while YouTube's new commenting system is annoying, it certainly isn't censorship. People still have the ability to throw around racial epithets all they want. It's just that now, everyone will know who they are.
Still, it does feel like the end of an era. If there was anything nice about the awfulness of YouTube comments, it was that they made the rest of the Internet seem smart and kind by comparison.
More than that, though, YouTube comments were sort of the last bastion of the Internet being something like the wild west—lawless and free. The anonymity may have lent itself to commentary that was rough and brutal, but that doesn't mean it was without merit. By applying order, there is no longer anarchy, however virtual. YouTube just got a little less punk rock.