For the last few videos I’ve uploaded to YouTube, I’ve discovered a disturbing trend. The default thumbnail (image that represents the video) isn’t predictable. YouTube appeared to be departing from the model of using the center frame and the 1/3 and 2/3 frame.
At the risk of spreading potential Twitter rumors, a little birdie says the center frame as thumbnail is RIP.
This is a really big deal if it’s not another technical glitch. I’ve discovered that almost nothing makes a video like the thumbnail. Not the title, creator, or content.
Many sites allow you to select from as many as 12 images. Some sites let you keep selecting/refreshing until you find just the right one (and even crop it). And there are even sites that allow you to upload a jpeg to represent the video.
So why would YouTube make it more difficult? Because thumbnails are often manipulated and because… YouTube can do whatever it wants now. The switching costs for viewers/creators is huge, and so we have a virtual monopoly.
Here’s hoping reason prevails. It would be a shame to subject a creator (and viewer) to a random thumbnail. Unless a different thumbnail appears each time someone refreshes the video (which is far too complex for servers) then there’s a simple solution…
Upload OVER AND OVER until you get the one you like.
Yeah! That’ll spin some bandwidth.
This is especially an issue a problem as Google provides a new way to search video thumbnails without ever going to YouTube. Did you notice that if you now search Google for the word YouTube, you can refine your video search without leaving Google’s homepage? Interesting move and one that would appear to be good for viewers but unclear as to whether that helps/harms revenue for Google. Fewer display ads (Google results don’t have them) but perhaps a higher CPC (cost per click) and more opportunities to serve the text ad.