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What is the Return YouTube Dislike extension and how does it work?

Bruno Cooke December 27, 2021
What is the Return YouTube Dislike extension and how does it work?
Photo by Olly Curtis/Future via Getty Images

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In November, YouTube officially announced that the dislike count would be “private” across the platform – now there’s a Return YouTube Dislike extension that does pretty much what the name suggests. How does it work, and how long is it likely to last?

Why did YouTube remove the public dislike count on its videos in the first place?

Via a blog post on the YouTube Official Blog, the YouTube Team announced on November 10, 2021 that the previously publicly viewable dislike count would become “private” across the platform.

The dislike button itself would remain, however. And creators would be able to see how many dislikes their videos received. But audiences would not. 

The idea behind the experiment is to “protect our creators from harassment”, say the YouTube Team. Specifically, its aim is to “reduce dislike attacks”, where “people work to drive up the number of dislikes on a creator’s videos”.

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Photo by Olly Curtis/Future via Getty Images

Experimental data apparently showed a “reduction in dislike attacking behaviour”, which they say disproportionately affects smaller channels. 

But not everyone is happy with the change. Several browsers now allow users to install a Return YouTube Dislike extension.

What is Return YouTube Dislike and how do you install it?

Not long after YouTube decided to roll out the removal of its publicly viewable dislike count, critics of the decision began airing their thoughts.

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There is now a browser extension for those who want to return to a version of YouTube that allows audiences to view dislike counts.

Return YouTube Dislike is available for users of Firefox, Chrome, Edge, Opera and Brave. It also provides a UserScript for users of other platforms, and a Jailbroken code for iOS users.

It already has over 1 million Chrome users

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How does Return YouTube Dislike work, and how long will it last?

The Return YouTube Dislike extension and API collects the video ID of whichever video you are watching. It gathers dislike data and stores it in its cache, according to the website’s FAQ section, for 2-3 days.

Before December 13, it used dislike data from the YouTube API. However, that data became unavailable to the extension developers on December 13.

Now, the Return YouTube Dislike extension uses a combination of Google’s own API data and “scraped data”. It also saves data to its own database so that it is available “after Google removes dislike counts from their API”. To what extent this affects the functionality or efficacy of the extension is not yet clear. It may be that videos uploaded after December 13 display less accurate dislike counts; older videos’ dislike counts may be estimates, rather than actual figures.

For some user reactions to YouTube’s removal of dislike counts, visit this subreddit on the topic.

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Bruno is a novelist, amateur screenwriter and journalist with interests in digital media, storytelling, film and politics. He’s lived in France, China, Sri Lanka and the Philippines, but returned to the UK for a degree (and because of the pandemic) in 2020. His articles have appeared in Groundviews, Forge Press and The Friday Poem, and most are readable on Medium or onurbicycle.com.