For a long time now, watching a YouTube video on your smartphone meant you'd be able to avoid any pesky annotations asking you to subscribe to a channel or click through to another clip. But those days are over. YouTube has just announced it's aiming to replace annotations with a new "cards" system that works across both desktop and mobile. Uploaders can start using cards today, overlaying text (and images) in a Google Now-like format that YouTube insists is "as beautiful as your videos."
Content creators can insert cards for merchandise sales, fundraising efforts, other videos, YouTube playlists, web links, and so on. We've embedded a couple of YouTube's examples here to give you a feel for how the cards work, and the screenshot below is what you'll see when watching on a phone. If you're watching in portrait orientation, a card's content will actually appear below a video, replacing a clip's description and comments until you click out of it.
Cards can be inserted at any point during a clip, and yes, they'll work just fine on mobile. The whole thing is a bit more obtrusive than the annotations of old, but admittedly it also looks a fair bit nicer. They also don't just pop up randomly; you've got to click the "info" symbol to see a card's content. That'll appear every time you hover over a video. They take up a fair amount of the screen, but somehow feel less obnoxious than annotations.
Keep in mind you're able to easily turn annotations off completely if you're the type who finds them annoying. That option is accessible through YouTube's settings menu, and the ability to disable annotations is something many users probably don't even know about. Shutting them off also wipes out these new cards — for now. YouTube says that eventually cards will fully replace annotations, but "only once they can do everything annotations can do today, and more." Use them mercifully, video makers.