We launched YouTube annotations in June 2008 to allow people get even more creative with their videos and add layers of interactivity, information and, well, good old fun. What followed was a tidal wave of innovation. From guitar lessons to interactive pianos, inspirational videos, ads, quizzes and games, not to mention everyone’s favorite, choose your own adventure videos, YouTube creators big and small really took to annotations and put them to use in incredible ways, including creating entire websites. Nonprofit organizations found annotations an effective way to direct viewers to their site and raise money for their causes.

To put this in numbers, we currently have close to 100 million individual annotations in the system and the rate of publishing is growing. One in five YouTube video views shows annotations and many of these are clickable. Annotations have been an effective mechanism for content discovery and cross promotion with some creators getting as much as 20% of their views from annotation links placed in videos.

Today, we’re happy to announce some important improvements to annotations:
  • A brand new annotation editor - based on user feedback, we overhauled the annotation editor and moved most of the functionality to a new side panel to streamline annotation creation, editing and deletion while leaving the player less cluttered.
  • New annotation type - “Title” - Title annotations enable overlaying headlines, videos titles, credits and other “big text” on top of your video, just like you would with professional video editing tools.
  • New Font size options - you can now select from a combined set of six font sizes.
  • New color options - annotations are now available in 16 background colors and 14 font colors.

Annotations can be a very powerful creative tool and make videos that are engaging, informative and interactive; however it’s important to realize that overlay text and hotspots can also interrupt and distract viewers. Not every use of annotation is necessarily a good use - there is an art to it. This is why we published Tips and Suggestions on how to get more from your annotations while respecting viewers’ wishes and maintaining a small footprint.

Finally we’re discontinuing the Collaborative Annotations feature to make room for even more new features coming soon.

To start annotating your videos, go to My Videos and choose “Annotations” from the drop down menu next to the video you wish to annotate. For inspiration check out
this playlist and see some of our favorite annotated videos. Happy annotating.

Itamar Gilad, Product Manager, recently watched “The YouTube Radio! (Interactive)” and Aaron Bingham, Annotations Engineering Lead, recently watched “Felix’s Machines.”