The Hitmen of Google+
In the event you're living on some alien world without YouTube and don't already know about it, YouTube comments are now powered by Google+. Your Google+ connections and influence now affect how YouTube comments are surfaced for all users, and you have to use Google+ to comment on YouTube videos. In addition, they've introduced new moderation features for YouTube content creators, things like blacklisting words, phrases, and users, automatically moderating some user's comments, automatically approving others, and even rewarding top fans.
I'm not going to cover every detail, there are a lot of aspects to this, but I am going to point out what Google won't quite come out and say: they've put out a hit out on the vile creatures that have long haunted the comments section of YouTube. It's a move that is years overdue. The comments section on YouTube has been like some throwback to an era before the web matured, the bad old days of commenting systems that seemed virtually designed to reward antisocial (and anonymous) behavior.
In the case of YouTube, there has long been a disconnect between the expectations of most users and the reality of the subculture bred by its comments. Who comments on YouTube? Unfortunately, some of the the worst dregs on the internet. Who watches videos on YouTube? Who doesn't if they can?This gap between who uses YouTube and who engages with it isn't good for Google. They want YouTube to drive the discussion, not pass it off to someone else. The videos are the centerpiece of discussion, after all, yet the best discussion takes place far removed from that abyss of negativity YouTube's comments have become, in places like Twitter and Facebook, and yes Google+ as well.
So, in the nicest way they can possibly break it, Google has declared war against that pit of filth, and their greatest weapon in the fight are the users of Google+. Each comment thread on a YouTube video is now a Google+ Post (and all comments on that thread are comments on that post). This means that each user moderates their own comment threads in the same way they moderate their posts on the social network (including Muting and Blocking users, or disabling comments if necessary). Bigots, trolls, and spammers can more easily be dealt with this way than they could under the old system. If users act as the Google+ team probably hopes we will, then far from being welcomed into the fold, many YouTube commenters will find themselves removed from the discussion, or drowned out.
We should call this what it is: a war. While they are both Google properties, the two cultures are fundamentally different. Google+ is a social network. YouTube's old comments section, on the other hand, was a gutter for every vile, hateful, spammy, antisocial thing that could be presented in a textual format. There will be no tearful unification of the two. While the goal of the integration is to improve YouTube, some of the immediate effect has been to bring that trash over to Google+, leaving us the task of moderating it.
Put simply, YouTube's commenters went rabid years ago. Google, hat in hand, has admitted the failure, and their solution is essentially to give Google+ users a shotgun and tell us to take the Tubers out behind the shed. Any improvement we see in the future to the quality of comments on YouTube videos will owe a significant debt, probably most of the debt, for this improvement to ordinary Google+ users exercising our moderation powers.
This isn't integration. It's a coup d'etat. In their hearts, perhaps the YouTube and Google+ teams hoped it wouldn't come to that, that the commenters of YouTube would rise to the occasion and embrace this new social platform as an opportunity. In their minds, though, they had to know it would come to this, that the center could not hold. Civil War was inevitable. The YouTube monkey cage has to be purged. And I think, if they were honest, everyone working on this knew that this could end with only one outcome: the death of the YouTube commenter as we knew them.