YouTube’s Crowdsourced Fan Captions & Subtitles

April 29, 2015 BY EMILY GRIFFIN
Updated: June 16, 2022

At 3Play Media’s Future of Video Player Accessibility webinar, developers at Google and YouTube shared a new option for adding captions to YouTube videos: crowdsourced fan captions.

What Are Fan Captions & Subtitles?

Fan captions are caption files for YouTube videos that are created and submitted by viewers. A YouTube channel’s fan can edit and update the automatically generated captions on a video and then submit that file to the channel’s owner for approval. The channel owner can then choose to accept or reject the caption file.

YouTube fans are also encouraged to translate the caption file into another language so that other viewers can enjoy multilingual subtitles.

Fans who submit captions or subtitles to videos will not be compensated in any way other than the satisfaction of making videos they love more accessible.

Benefits of Fan Captions & Subtitles

Crowdsourced YouTube captioning offers a happy medium between high-quality, professional video transcription and inaccurate auto-generated captions. It’s a free, scalable solution for content creators, albeit with no guarantee of quality or comprehensiveness.

YouTube users who are deaf or hard of hearing benefit greatly from accurate, comprehensive closed captioning on videos. Closed captions also make YouTube videos more viewable in sound-sensitive environments, like a noisy train or a quiet library. English language learners benefit from captioned videos, as captions improve language comprehension. Accurate video transcripts and captions are indexed by search engines and are proven to boost SEO for YouTube videos. And finally, multilingual subtitles make videos accessible to non-English speakers around the world, which benefits not only global viewers, but also the channel owner who reaches a wider audience.

How Do YouTube Fan Captions Work?

Participating YouTube channels’ videos will have an option to Add subtitles/CC on the CC dropdown menu or transcript tab. Video creators can also share a custom link with fans who are interested in contributing captions.

This brings fans to an editing interface in which they can type captions or subtitles at a given point in the video. When finished, the fan hits Submit to send the captions to the channel owner for approval. A closed caption file in the video’s source language must be added (or already present) before fans can contribute translated subtitles.

Fans can monitor the status and history of their caption contributions by visiting Video Manager > Community > Contribute subtitles and CC.

Fan Subtitles Editing Interface
For full instructions on adding fan captions, check YouTube’s official support page.

Who Can Use Fan Captions?

YouTube’s fan captions feature is currently in beta testing with channels that have a popular following. Those channels include:

YouTube plans to roll out fan captions publicly in the near future.

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