YouTube Annotations Get Social, Add A Much-Needed 'Off' Button

YouTube has just launched an expansion to its Annotations feature that gives users the ability to invite their friends to help spruce up their videos using text boxes, labels, and interactive buttons. In the past I’ve been somewhat critical of these annotations, primarily because they can be really annoying in the wrong hands. But tonight YouTube has also introduced a oft-requested feature that will turn off all annotations entirely, allowing users to peruse videos in their unadulterated form if they wish to. You can find the option under your account’s ‘Playback Settings’ menu.

YouTube originally launched annotations last June, and introduced a new interface in January that made the process more intuitive. Tonight’s new sharing feature presents video uploaders with a link that they can share with friends to invite them to help annotate their video. Anyone who accesses the video through the special link will be able to use the same annotation interface, though the original video owner will retain final control over what appears (they can also reset the link should it become too widespread).

For tight circles of friends this will probably be a welcome addition and could lead to some fun interaction, though if the sharable link got posted to a message board or public chat room I can imagine a video getting cluttered up pretty quickly (though you can always delete these later). In any case, it’s nice to see that YouTube isn’t resting on its laurels as it continues to expand its feature set, and is willing to implement user requests like that ‘off’ button.