On YouTube, 'popular' no longer means the thing everyone's watching [UPDATED]
In the latest in a series of moves away from its early, freewheeling roots, YouTube has quietly changed the default filter on its highly trafficked main video page from "most viewed" to something called "popular."
Since its inception, YouTube's "most viewed" page has been the place to find the Web's hottest -- and, in a sense, most popular -- videos. The area is still available but is sure to become less prominent now that it's lost the default status.
YouTube has posted no blog entry about the change, and nowhere does it define or explain what "Popular" means (This we know: It doesn't mean most viewed). In December, when YouTube first introduced what was originally called the "most popular" tab, a spokesman wrote vaguely that
DeFranco writes in to shed some light on the "popular" tab by sharing some info he says YouTube gave him. "Think of it as a Most viewed for interesting content. It is a mixture of views, audience attention (how long the viewer watches) and ratings. Why promote content that people aren't enjoying even after they watch it? Unlike Most Viewed, if someone watches for 10 seconds ... and leaves, [Popular] will not reward the video."
In other words, it's one way to minimize the effect of gaming, in which users employ racy thumbnails or video titles to trick viewers into watching less than racy videos -- and the viewers quickly lose interest. This would be a logical explanation that, if true, it seems YouTube could have fit into a blog update.
Also: It appears that last night, after this post was published, YouTube added a new, smaller "most viewed" module to its main video page above the popular area.