When I open YouTube these days, it’s mostly a mess. Sure, the videos they recommend me to watch vaguely resemble the type of content I’m interested in. But for the most part, I scroll past most of the noise until I see something half-way decent to click on. More often than not, the videos I enjoy watching most on YouTube are the ones I seek out myself, either through search or from channels I’m subscribed to.
YouTube is changing the way its home page works—at least for some of us. You might log in one day and see nothing but a search bar, blank space, and a message: Your watch history is off.
Disabling watch history will improve your YouTube experience
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As reported by The Verge, YouTube is removing home page recommendations for anyone with a paused watch history, as well as those who “have no significant prior watch history.” If you meet those qualifications, your YouTube home page will look pretty bare. You better know what you want to watch, because YouTube sure won’t recommend anything to you.
You don’t need another algorithm in your life watching everything you do and attempting to keep you engaged by serving you targeted content, especially when that content isn’t even relevant in the first place. In fact, you might find your social media experience is better the more you avoid feeding these algorithms. YouTube is a prime example: The site is much more enjoyable when you search for the content you want to watch yourself. Hell, you’ll find much more relevant recommendations from a Reddit thread than you will from the site’s algorithms. (And have you ever had the misfortune to open the YouTube app in a browser you aren’t logged into? Horrific.)
The funny thing is, YouTube is probably doing this because they want to coerce users who pause watch history into turning it back on. Sure, maybe it’ll work, but in my view, it only makes the app and site better for those of us breaking out of the algorithm game.
How to turn off YouTube watch history
The fasted way to manage your watch history settings is to choose your profile icon in the top right of the app or site, then choose “Your data in YouTube.” Under “YouTube Watch History,” choose “On,” then tap “Turn off” under “YouTube History.” Feel free to scan the pop-up to see what you’re giving up (recommendations, etc.), then hit “Pause” to commit. Since you’re only pausing watch history, you can reverse the decision at any time.
If you really want to go all in, you can hit “Delete old activity” from the pop-up to erase your watch history.
You might not seeing home page changes take effect immediately: Google does say it’s rolling this out over the next few months. But keep an eye out for a better YouTube coming to an app or browser near you.