YouTube is finally shutting down annotations for good. Back in March 2017, the Google-owned company announced that it would be retiring them, better described as boxes that suddenly pop up while a video plays, sometimes appearing multiple times, or — worse yet — never disappearing at all.
These boxes often contain extra information, and oftentimes they also provide links to other videos or websites. Annotations are most used in instructional or technical videos, such as those that require people to visit links to download something.
The shutdown doesn't come as much of a surprise, really. YouTube had discontinued the annotations editor in May of the same year. But soon, all existing annotations will go away as well.
YouTube Ends Annotations Forever
YouTube announced the change by updating its help page, stating that it will "stop showing existing annotations to viewers starting January 15, 2019. All existing annotations will be removed."
The company hasn't explicitly explained why it's doing away with annotations, but it's fair to assume that they never really worked that well on mobile, and most people watch YouTube videos through their phones and tablets these days, making these pesky boxes a bit out of place from YouTube's desired aesthetic.
YouTube Cards And End Screens
As a recourse, and in response to content creators seeking an annotation system that would work well on phones, YouTube introduced Cards instead, which the company likens to an evolution of annotations. Additionally, it also introduced End Screens, a way for viewers to watch more videos related to the one they just finished.
When those two features became more popular, annotation use decreased by more than 70 percent, according to YouTube. Compared to annotations, Cards and End Screens are more engaging and easier to create, says the company. More importantly, they're highly functional on mobile. Given these factors, it makes perfect sense why YouTube would cut annotations for good, regardless if they're a staple of the old YouTube. It represents the end of an era for most people who got to experience the platform's older iterations.
In any case, most people would probably see this as a good thing. For one, it'll make watching YouTube videos cleaner and more streamlined, especially for those who mainly visit YouTube using their desktop. On the other hand, those who mainly watch YouTube videos on their phone probably won't even notice the change. These folks have been taking advantage of Cards and End Screens, which are far more efficient than annotations can ever hope to be.