Google Research

YouTube's Collaborative Annotations

  • Michael Fink
  • Sigalit Bar
  • Aviad Bazilai
  • Nir Kerem
  • Isaac Elias
  • Julian Frumar
  • Herb Ho
  • Ryan Junee
  • Simon Ratner
  • Jasson Schrock
  • Ran Tavory
Webcentives (2009), pp. 18-19


More and more YouTube videos no longer provide a passive viewing experience, but rather entice the viewer to interact with the video by clicking on objects with embedded links. These links are part of YouTube’s Annotations system, which enables content owners to add active overlays on top of their videos. YouTube Annotation overlays also enable adding dynamic speech bubbles and pop-ups which can function as an ever-changing layer of supplementary information and entertainment, augmenting the video experience. This paper addresses the question of whether the ability to add annotation overlays on a given video should be opened to the YouTube public. The basic dilemma in opening a video to collaborative annotations is derived from the tension between the benefits of collaboration and the risks of visual clutter and spam. We term the degree to which a video is open to external contributions as the collaboration spectrum, and describe several models that let content owners to explore this spectrum in order to find the optimal way to harness the power of the masses.

Learn more about how we do research

We maintain a portfolio of research projects, providing individuals and teams the freedom to emphasize specific types of work