Fare thee well, sidebar

A comparison of the old layout, including the traditional sidebar (above), and the new layout (below).

The sidebar is officially dead.

A long-standing tradition and frequent in-joke of YouTube culture, the side-mounted video description has been suffering a slow, prolonged death for some time.

Nevertheless, I was shocked when I went to watch my friend Beth‘s latest video on our collaborative channel, Vlogtag, and found that the layout of YouTube’s video pages had been completely rethought. I’d heard rumors of the impending change, but I was surprised to discover, how drastic those changes were.

In addition to the Like/Dislike buttons, whose coming was previously announced, there are a few extra functions and a lot of changes. I’m still discovering them all; most of them seem to be the hiding of things like insight and more videos by the viewer into weird little menus.

The new ratings system is easily dominating discussions about the recent changes. After that, the most pressing issue to most will no doubt be the difficulty adjusting to the new ways of interfacing with the page. Amidst issues like these, I believe that many people, at first, will overlook the significance of the sidebar’s death.

The video description, which affectionately earned the nickname “sidebar” due to its traditional placement to the immediate right of every video, is ingrained in the essence of the YouTube experience. Countless videos reference it, with vloggers attempting to point their viewers in the direction of whatever links or information they’re referencing.

This attempt, all too frequently, resulted in unintentional humor when a vlogger would end up pointing the wrong direction by mistake. Some – including John Green of the Vlogbrothers – turned this into a running gag, pointing in two or more directions in lieu of correcting their repeated mistakes.

Despite its prominence in the vlogging subculture, the sidebar’s doom has been written for some time. It began its slow death with the introduction of YouTube’s Partner Program, which brought embedded advertising to the video page.

With the introduction of advertisements above the video description, partnered vloggers suddenly found themselves having to point diagonally, toward the lower corner of the video frame, to avoid pointing at their new source of income rather than the links and information they were talking about.

The sidebar suffered a further blow when YouTube introduced high definition videos. Utilizing the new HD option caused videos to expand. The larger dimensions no longer fit in the standard layout of the video page, so the option caused the video to shift to a new location, centered above the comments and the video. For anyone who hadn’t yet seen the death of the sidebar coming, this was an undeniable omen.

Even after the option for this larger, top-mounted display was opened up to non-HD videos, the sidebar still clung to life. In addition to still existing for those who watched videos in their lowest quality, people found themselves unable to keep from referencing their beloved, yet clearly dying, video assistant.

Responses to the inevitable end varied – some continued to use the term “sidebar”, even while pointing mostly downward. Others reverted to its official name, telling their viewers to find their links “in the description.”

It was Craig Benzine, better known as the WheezyWaiter, who would rename the iconic sidebar. The nickname he gave it caught on quickly, and now the phrase “links in the doobly-doo” has become a lasting, directionally ambiguous way to direct viewers to the information they seek.

Today, the sidebar is no more. Relocated to living directly beneath the video – no matter what dimensions the video is being viewed in – the days of not knowing whether to point to the right or the left are over.

It’s not a bad thing at all; the format is prettier, and more in line with the layout of YouTube channel pages. Still, a large part of me is sad to see the sidebar go. Its significance in my life as a YouTuber is undeniable, and there are so many memories and inside jokes attached to it. It may be gone, but it will not be forgotten.

Fare thee well, sidebar. Rest in peace.

For more detailed information on the new changes to YouTube’s video pages, check out the YouTube Business Blog.

4 Comments

  1. I'm not exactly sure what you're talking about. None of my sidebars are missing.

  2. Links in the underbar!

  3. Like underboob, but for bars! 😀

  4. I love this entry, Adam. You have a serious talent, one which I hope to have more of eventually.

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