YouTube starts phasing out exact subscriber numbers

Users have complained that loss of accuracy may put off brand partners.

YouTube: popular channels will start displaying less specific subscriber numbers
YouTube: popular channels will start displaying less specific subscriber numbers

YouTube will, from today (Monday), start phasing out the use of exact subscriber numbers for content channels with more than 1,000 followers.

The Google-owned video giant will gradually roll out the change this month. It will mean less information for brands looking for influencer partnerships. 

For example, a channel with 4,227 subscribers will show a subscriber count of 4.2K, while channels with 133,017 subscribers will read "133K". 

Channel creators will still see exact numbers in their own profiles, while public-facing accounts with fewer than 1,000 subcribers will still display exact numbers, such as 939.

The loss of accuracy becomes greater as the subscriber number grows: a channel with 51,999,999 users will show as 51m until it hits the 52,000,000 mark, meaning its subscriber count coud be short by up to almost a million.

When the abbreviated subscriber counts were first announced by Google in May, the company said it was aiming to "create more consistency everywhere that we publicly display subscriber counts".

However, the move attracted swathes of criticism, with some claiming that it was being done to help YouTube mask the effect when fake accounts are periodically purged from the platform.

One user, Martyn Littlewood, said: "Not only might the viewers feel as though they've contributed but potential business partners could go elsewhere if they believe their quota can't be met (alternatively, it could low-ball initial offers from them and undermine brand deal opportunities) – sure, you could argue that they'll get in touch then you can send accurate information, but what if they never call at all due to this change?"