YouTube is testing a new recommendation format for both mobile and desktop users that use blue bubbles to suggest keywords, creators, and related topics to help browse through videos.
Screenshots obtained by The Verge show these blue bubbles in action. They appear just underneath the video player, and the idea is to help users filter recommendations. These are more specific recommendations than the videos that appear off to the side. The feature is currently being tested with a small set of people on both YouTube’s main desktop page and mobile apps.
There are four categories that appeared on one specific MMA video, seen below: all, recommended for you, related videos by topic, and related videos by channels. Recommended videos from the specific channel of the video a user is currently watching, for example, would recommend similar videos that the channel may have produced in the past. Related videos by topic or channel may prompt videos from other creators tackling a similar issue. There are other videos recommended for users based on a person’s specific viewing patterns.
Recommendations on YouTube have been a point of contention for quite some time. Videos recommended off to the side often have little to do with the current video, according to multiple complaints from Reddit users. A YouTube representative addressed concerns from the community about unrelated recommendations only last week on Reddit.
It’s unclear if the videos that populate from the new recommendation bubbles will face similar algorithmic issues that YouTube’s recommendation feed currently suffers from, as multiple reports have pointed out. YouTube’s recommendation features can lead users to unsavory and disturbing content — something that YouTube’s team is aware of and trying to address.
“I think that’s definitely an area where we see there’s an opportunity for us to figure out how can we continue to diversify the content that you’re seeing, continue to improve the recommendations, rely on the authoritativeness of the publishers,” CEO Susan Wojcicki told Wired in March 2018 while talking about issues with recommendations when it comes to complex genres like political content. “There are many things we’re doing to continue improving how our recommendations work.”
The Verge has reached out to YouTube for additional comment on how the recommendation bubbles will work, and if they’ll roll out to a bigger group in the coming months.