YouTube is testing time-specific emoji reactions

Viewers can react via emoji at specific moments in a video.


Sometimes a YouTube video deserves more nuanced feedback than a simple comment, or a “thumbs up” or a “thumbs down”. YouTube today is testing timed-specific emoji reactions for a small group of users. Viewers can throw out an emoji when a specific moment in a video resonates with them (or doesn’t).

Users can also get a feel for how others reacted throughout the duration of a video. There will be a separate reaction panel in the comment section of each video that will display emoji reactions by the moment, similar to features already offered by Facebook Live and Twitch.

“If you’re watching a video that is part of this experiment, you can react and see crowd reactions by opening the comment section of the video and tapping into the reaction panel. The test will also show you which moments other viewers are reacting to (which will be anonymized – we won't show who sent each reaction). We're testing multiple sets of reactions and will add or remove reactions based on how the experiment goes!,” wrote Meaghan, a representative from Team YouTube.

Google frequently experiments with new features on YouTube, but they don't always become permanent. YouTube recently tested letting users time their comments to specific points in a video and hiding the “dislike” button. As far as user engagement goes, YouTube is relatively light on options.

Emoji reactions have been hit-or-miss on other social media platforms. Twitter experimented with emoji reactions to tweets last year, and reactions were largely ambivalent. But unlike tweets, videos are a lengthier medium and more likely to elicit a multitude of reactions. YouTube creators are likely to receive more detailed user feedback via emoji as well, such as being able to nail down if a joke landed or bombed.

YouTube is testing emoji reactions on a small number of channels to start but will expand the feature depending on the reception. Users will have a wide array of emoji reactions at their disposal, including the face with tears of joy, a heart, the shocked face, the celebration party poppers, the “keep it 100” sign, a question mark, the idea light bulb and a screaming cat.