YouTube isn’t completely evil. Yes, there are some undesirable features such as anonymous YouTube trolls, and there’s the whole thing with Google sticking its hands into everyone’s privacy through tracking. However, YouTube has done a lot of good — just compare the modern day interface with the interface from 2005 if you don’t believe me. And a lot of their features, though annoying, are good-intentioned. The YouTube Recommendations feature is one of them.
A lot of people shame Google for their methods — even going as far as threatening to quit Google altogether. But if you think about it, it’s a noble thing for YouTube to suggest videos that you might like based on your browsing habits. Over 100 hours of video footage is being uploaded to YouTube every minute. No one has the time to browse through all of that, so recommendations are a nice way to show you relevant videos.
The problem is that YouTube’s recommendations can eventually start going wonky, suggesting weird videos that have nothing to do with your interests. When that happens, here’s what you can do to deal with it.
How to Reset YouTube Recommendations
Nobody knows what exactly goes into the YouTube algorithm for suggesting recommendations. Well, nobody other than the YouTube engineers of course. However, it’s safe to say that two things have a very strong impact on what YouTube ends up recommending: search history and watch history. If you reset both of these, you can pretty much reset your recommendations back to a blank slate.
The first thing you’ll want to do is clear the search history. Without a search history, the YouTube algorithm doesn’t know what you usually watch. Plus, by deleting the log of searches, you can erase all of those “guilty pleasure” video searches that you’ve been running but never wanted anyone to find.
To delete your YouTube search history:
- Go to the top bar and click on your account name.
- In the menu that appears, click on Video Manager.
- In the side navigation, click on Search History.
- Be sure to click on both Clear all search history and Pause search history.
By pausing the search history feature, YouTube will stop logging the search terms that you run when looking for videos. With that done you won’t need to constantly delete your history in order to reset your recommendations, resulting in “pure” recommendations most of the time. If you want this feature back on, re-enabling is as easy as clicking the button again.
The second thing you’ll want to do is clear your watch history. This is the log of all videos you’ve seen, which does not have a cap as far as I know. I just checked my watch history and there were over 1,300 videos in there. Without these, YouTube will lose track of your watching habits, thus resetting the YouTube recommendation algorithm.
To delete your YouTube watch history:
- Go to the homepage sidebar and click on Watch History.
- Be sure to click on both Clear all watch history and Pause watch history.
Similar to search history tracking, pausing watch history tracking prevents YouTube from logging all of the videos you watch while logged into your account. Since YouTube won’t have this information anymore, you won’t need to constantly clear this history. If you want this feature back on, again, re-enabling is as easy as clicking the button.
Note: After deleting histories, you may need to wait a while for the recommendations to reset. Sometimes, the recommendations just won’t reset even after you’ve cleared everything. This is because there are other outside factors that are considered when formulating recommendations. In this case, there’s little else you can do.
How to Remove YouTube Recommendations
Resetting your recommendations is one way to go about it, but removing recommendations entirely would be another way to solve the problem. This would be a great choice for those of you who never really look at the recommendations, who have never found any good recommendations, or who simply prefer more screen estate while browsing YouTube.
The quickest and easiest way to remove YouTube recommendations would be to use the YouTube Options browser extension available for Chrome, Safari, and Opera. It’s one of the tools that we recommend for cutting out YouTube annoyances and while it does have the ability to remove video recommendations entirely, it does so much more.
Unfortunately, the YouTube Options extension isn’t available on Firefox, which means you’ll need to find another way to be rid of those pesky recommendations. One way to do this would be to use the Quietube bookmarklet, which takes a YouTube video and completely removes all of the distracting elements (e.g., comments, recommended videos, related videos, etc.) and leaves you with just the video. An alternative to Quietube would be the YouTube Cinema Mode addon.
Obviously this is more of a workaround than a true fix, but it does get the job done when you are out of options.
If those pesky YouTube recommendations are bogging you down, you don’t have to sit there and put up with them. Clear out your histories to reset those recommendations OR get rid of them altogether with a browser extension or bookmarklet. The feature itself is fine on paper, but when it starts acting up and stops doing what it’s supposed to do, try the solutions above, see how it works out for you, and share your results with us in the comments.