At the start of October, YouTube made a big announcement on its official blog:
“For many creators, YouTube isn’t just a place to upload and comment on videos, it’s a community and home base. That’s why today we’re introducing handles, a new way for people to easily find and engage with creators and each other on YouTube. Every channel will have a unique handle, making it easier for fans to discover content and interact with creators they love.”1
What exactly are YouTube handles?
To summarise, YouTube handles are a new way of identifying yourself when interacting with others, whether in the comment sections, video descriptions or community posts.
The name you choose will be completely unique and exists on top of any channel names you already have. (You can only have a handle if you have a YouTube account).
A deadline of 14th of November has been set to select your handle. But don’t panic, missing the deadline will only mean you miss out on first picks for a name and will be assigneda handle automatically which you can choose to edit later.
However, keep in mind that the longer you leave it to set your handle the higher the risk that someone else will have taken your first choice of handle.
Why has YouTube created handles in the first place?
As mentioned above, channel names already exist, so why do we need another way to identify ourselves?
It looks like YouTube is following in the footsteps of other social media platforms that have already been using handles for a while. YouTube has expanded its offering and is now more than just a place to share and watch videos.
Never before has it been so easy to engage with like-minded people in a community of creatives. It makes sense that people would want to shape their online personas further to stand out and be recognised.
What else can YouTube handles do?
On top of furthering your online presence, handles make it easier to find other users.
As TikTok credits content creators by adding their handles to videos, YouTube shorts are trying to follow suit. If you find a short you like, you only need to click on the name attached to be directed to that channel and find similar videos.
You can also tag other handles during collaborations meaning more channels have a chance to grow their audience and are more likely to get noticed.
What are the benefits of YouTube handles?
In addition to making communicating with others and finding new channels easier, handles help you to create a unique presence away from just a channel name.
YouTube handles also help you to find and interact with the right people. Someone might include a hobby or craft in their name that they practice on their channel. If you are interested in book reviews, someone with a handle like @Izzysbookclub will likely offer the content you want.
Choosing a handle also means gaining a unique URL that helps direct people to your channel. Before only channels with over 100 subscribers were eligible for a handle but now anyone with an account can have one. It’s great to see YouTube is becoming more inclusive and welcoming to smaller creators just starting up.
Handles also benefit larger channels. Before, if an established channel changed its name it would have to ask to be verified again. This is important because it delivers credibility to the viewers that the channel owner is who they claim to be. There have been many instances of people making channels with similar names to impersonate others and potentially ruin that YouTuber’s reputation by spreading false or offensive comments and content. By changing a handle, their verification remains so fans can be assured that any content created or comments made are genuine.
YouTube handles are a new concept that is still being gradually rolled out to accounts, so it’s hard to say exactly how effective or popular this addition will be.
On their help page, YouTube has already received mixed reviews. While some users are excited about the change, many expressed frustrations with not being able to swap handles between the multiple channels they own. On their help page, one user wrote:
“I deleted the personal channel hoping the handle will be available to choose with my biz channel but now it’s showing as taken. Funny part is it’s taken by me in the personal channel that I deleted. Help @TeamYouTube!!”2
Adding multiple naming systems might be overcomplicating things, especially if a channel you have followed for years suddenly adds a handle that is completely different from the original channel name. Introducing more features also opens the platform to further technical problems.
With that said, we shouldn’t jump to accept these criticisms as gospel just yet. After all, it’s still early days and the point of the YouTube help page is for users to report problems so officials can address these and make improvements for the future.
We are excited to see YouTube grow. It’s clear that the tech giant is becoming more aspirational to ensure it stays relevant and expands as a community and we look forward to seeing this take shape.