Every year, YouTube releases “Rewind,” a cameo-filled video that is intended to celebrate the past year on the platform, through the eyes of the company. And every year, there are fandoms and creators who are unhappy with the result — people who were left out, moments that weren’t mentioned. It’s impossible to please everyone in one frenetic lip-sync montage.
But 2018 was different: Within a week of its Dec. 6 release, this year’s “Rewind” has become the most disliked video in the history of YouTube.
Until Thursday, the music video for Justin Bieber’s “Baby” was the most-disliked video on the site, with 9,910,204 dislikes as of this writing, according to YouTube analytics platform DBase. The “Rewind” video now has 10,246,035 dislikes. Both numbers are growing, as various factions of YouTube culture continue to battle over which video deserves this dubious honor.
So why is this happening? Part of it is due to Bieber fans, sensing a chance to redeem “Baby,” disliking the “Rewind” video en masse. But that came after an initial, forceful, negative reaction from many creators and their fans when the video came out. And that’s because “Rewind,” particularly this year, has distilled an ongoing and increasing tension between some of the bigger factions of YouTube culture and YouTube as a corporate entity.
Marques Brownlee, a creator who was prominently featured in “Rewind,” released a video explaining his perspective on all this. Brownlee argued that “the problem with YouTube rewind … is pretty simple, actually. YouTubers and creators and audiences sees it as one thing, and YouTube, who’s in charge of making it, sees it as something completely different.”
For the first group, “Rewind” is supposed to be a look back at the biggest moments and creators of the past year on the platform. And that’s more or less what the “Rewind” videos were in their early days. For instance, here’s 2012′s video, which is basically just a dance party to Psy’s “Gangnam Style” and Carly Rae Jepsen’s “Call Me Maybe.”
That’s changed over time. “As YouTube starts to grow and expand,” Brownlee said, “they started seeing YouTube ‘Rewind’ as a place to showcase all the best stuff that happens on YouTube for advertisers.”
“YouTube ‘Rewind,’ in a way, turned into a giant ad for YouTube,” Brownlee added.
In a Thursday statement emailed to the Washington Post, YouTube said it was listening to the feedback about this year’s rewind. “Dethroning ‘Baby’ in dislikes wasn’t exactly our goal this year. Honest feedback can suck, but we are listening and we appreciate how much people care.” the statement read.
“Trying to capture the magic of YouTube in one single video is like trying to capture lightning in a bottle. We also learned that creating content can be really hard and this underscores our respect and admiration for YouTube creators doing it every day. Keep the feedback coming and maybe we’ll release a top 10 list of ‘Rewind dislike’ reaction videos.”
As we wrote last week, some of the most prominent people in this year’s “Rewind” were not primarily famous for, well, being on YouTube. The entire video is framed as a Fortnite-filled dream by Will Smith. Ninja, a Twitch streamer, has a major cameo. And the video (as it has in past years) features multiple late-night hosts, like John Oliver and Trevor Noah, whose segments tend to do well on YouTube.
While “Rewind” did feature some key moments and communities from 2018 — for the first time, there was an extended animation segment, for instance — angry fans criticized the video for leaving out some of the biggest. Shane Dawson, a creator whose documentaries about other YouTubers drove discussions on the platform for months, wasn’t in or referenced in the video (however, Dawson hasn’t said whether he was invited to participate in this year’s “Rewind”).
Others pointed to the absence of PewDiePie and the Paul brothers. Logan Paul, who dove right into 2018 by vlogging a dead body in a Japanese forest, has continued to find new and exciting ways to monetize his fame, even after scandals more or less broke his relationship with YouTube as a company. And PewDiePie, who lost the support of Disney and YouTube in 2017 after media reports on the Nazi jokes on his channel, has remained the platform’s biggest creator. Fans feel that even though these creators are controversial, leaving them out means not giving a full picture of YouTube in 2018.
This post was updated with a statement from YouTube. The time stamp has been changed.