I was watching a video on youtube and noticed their like/dislike bar. They have had this new design for quite some time now. In the earlier youtube, the dislike bar would be red and distinctly visible. Now they have decided to mellow down that by coloring it light grey.

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The effect is quite subtle, atleast in my head it is. From "368 PEOPLE HATE THIS!!" to "368 people didn't like it".

SEs, like many other sites, still maintain the green for good and red for bad highlighting.

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The question is:

If you are de-highlighting/removing the focus of the negatives:

  • Are they losing their significance?
  • Are they even necessary at that point?
  • Who downvoted? This is a thoughtful question with two contrasting concrete examples. If you're going to downvote, it's courteous to leave a note explaining why. Commented Apr 17, 2013 at 3:03
  • 6
    The downvote is actually funny, considering the context of the question.
    – rk.
    Commented Apr 17, 2013 at 11:48

2 Answers 2


Here's the thing about downvotes; almost no one downvotes. And another thing: some people downvote anything. Don't believe me? Check out this chart from when Youtube stopped using 5 star ratings:

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For the most part people are much, much more willing to note what they like, not what they dislike, at least in simple rating systems (fully written reviews tend to be pickier about dishing out the love). They've even gone with the trend (and saved some clutter) by omitting the "dislike" label (note that if they kept the Dislike table, the dislike button may have been slightly larger):

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I do think Youtube tried to demphasize thumbs-down, but this doesn't necessarily tell you much. Virtually every video on youtube with a non-trivial amount of votes has downvotes. The fact that it was downvoted at all is almost irrelevant; downvotes only become relevant there when a large portion (not number in absolute terms) of votes are downvotes. And the bar gets that point across very well.

Basically the Youtube bar doesn't need to throw in your face "this video sucks look it has 10 dislikes WTF! Oh also it has 28734 likes but who cares"; in most cases, all you really care about are likes. In cases where dislikes start to matter (large dislike:like ratio) downvotes become naturally visible. Actually Stack Exchange does that as well; downvotes are "hidden" either behind click or until a post is actually in the negatives. While visually very different, the structures afford the same "preference" to positive votes.

Small numbers of dislikes shouldn't be highly visible. They aren't significant. As a youtube producer myself, the single downvotes random videos get are almost entirely useless. It's only when the ratio of votes sways unusually negative that users should really take note; that's what both Youtube and Stack Exchange are doing (and many other sites, such as Facebook and Twitter which only allow positive "votes").

  • RE the point about stars, see another answer of mine on star rating systems
    – Ben Brocka
    Commented Apr 17, 2013 at 0:29
  • But what happens when the number of dislikes (in youtube) is say 75% of the total votes? Should it still be grey?
    – rk.
    Commented Apr 17, 2013 at 0:33
  • Great write up, I believe what Ben was saying is that getting feed back is the hard part, and every choice the user has is a chance to choose to back out instead of leave more information. So emphasizing the ability to choose to affiliate with something and not the choice. Youtube in that particular answer also offers to share afterwards which is gives you another metric to see how much they like something. Profiling like/dislike ratios youtube could weight which dislikes/likes were fan spam/hate spam etc and promote/showcase off that.
    – ransom bot
    Commented Apr 17, 2013 at 1:20

Another take on things: MOST (in my experience) downvotes have nothing to do with the actual validity of the content, but are related to personal bias of the voter towards the content creator or publisher (or in cases religious of other strongly held personal beliefs towards the content).
First case would also include people downvoting everything not published by themselves and/or their friends in order to attempt to artificially inflate their own ratings (this is also prevalent on places that allow ratings, like Amazon, where a lot of 1* ratings are traditionally the result of competing authors and publishers attempting to dissuade people from buying from their competitors. Without active policing this can become a major problem, even worse if the people doing it are moderators on a site with the power to remove upvotes and positive comments from people and/or edit them to appear ridiculous, something I've personally been the victim of in the past).

Second case is often done for political reasons, e.g. many discussions into politics, religion, and environmental issues tend to lead to people downvoting things not because of factual validity but because they are at odds with the opinion of the poster (again, if the culprits are moderators, things get even nastier).

So given all that, we can probably (and ever more sites are going that way) assume that most downvotes have no value. The same is to a degree also true for upvotes, but there we find a larger group who tend to upvote things based on merit.
Overall though, I find the whole "like/dislike" thing rather childish and it doesn't really have validity to determine someone's seniority or expert level (and yes, this basically invalidates the way it's used on SE) in most places it is used (it requires far more maturity to use it properly than most people employ when things get emotional, and things tend to get emotional quickly when deeply held beliefs are questioned).

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