YouTube: more thumbnail selection for partners, less for everyone else
As part of its major rule-tightening last week, YouTube informed users that their thumbnail image choices would now be offered by a computer, eliminating the potential for thumbnail "gaming." Enterprising users had long ago figured out that the thumbnail choices the site offered came from frames that appeared 25%, 50% and 75% of the way through the video -- and they'd used that insight to insert images that played up the video's sexiest parts, or worse, didn't reflect the content of the video at all.
So thanks to these no-goodniks, the honor system has been revoked for YouTube commoners, who from now on will have to choose from three "algorithmically"-selected thumbnail options. Google and YouTube have successfully altered the definition of "algorithm," from "a set of steps that solve a problem" to "something secret that you will never know hahaha so stop trying to guess."
Luckily, YouTube's Partners -- the site's money-making patrician class -- will face no such stricture. Partners now have the enhanced ability to upload a "custom image" for use as their thumbnail, meaning it doesn't even have to come from the video. Though the privilege comes with a warning not to go crazy with phony misleading images, the Pards will no doubt use their new power to engage in some creative thumbnailing.
— David Sarno