Earlier this week, Google announced that it’s planning on deleting millions of accounts made by users who were no longer active. It’s slightly alarming if, perhaps, you have a spam Gmail account dedicated to logins for sites you used exactly once, but most users won’t be affected. But what about millions and millions of YouTube videos from accounts no longer active? Apparently, they won’t be purged along with the rest of the dross, according to a Google staffer.
YouTube Creator Liason Rene Ritchie told a concerned Twitter user that the company has “no plans to delete accounts with YT videos,” as spotted by Ars Technica. It’s a relief to digital archivists, who’ve come to view YouTube as the de facto repository of the web’s short-form video (at least those short-form videos where everyone keeps their clothes on). With nearly twenty years of history stretching back to before the Google acquisition and “500 hours of content per minute” being uploaded, YouTube remains the internet’s largest centralized collection of videos, even as would-be rivals like TikTok nip at its heels.
Why the exception for accounts with videos associated with them? It just makes sense. While an empty and unused Gmail account is only costing Google money to maintain, as emails come in with no one to read them and serve up targeted advertising, a video remains a source of ad revenue as long as it’s posted. (I still occasionally watch one of my favorite skits from an account that hasn’t posted a new video in almost a decade). Not to mention that YouTube videos make up a considerable portion of Google’s search results, enhancing another core aspect of the company’s bottom line.
That said, the vast majority of YouTube videos get little to no views, and it makes sense that at some point Google will want to trim the fat on YouTube as well. If you’re using YouTube as essentially free video storage, it would be prudent to back it up, just in case this rather vague promise from a single Google employee is less than ironclad. You have some time: The Google account purge won’t start until December 2023.