Dear YouTube, Let Us Pick Our Own Thumbnails Already!

YouTube users have been asking for an option to customize their video thumbnails for years now. So when are they going to be able to?

Dear YouTube,

I love you guys but seriously, when are you going to let us pick our own thumbnail images already? YouTube users have been asking for an option to customize their video thumbnails for years now. So when are they going to be able to?

On the YouTube support page a user asked, “Can I pick the thumbnail or pictures used to represent my video?” and you responded with a resounding, “You sure can! Once your video’s been processed, three representative video thumbnails will be generated by the system. Once these thumbnails have been generated, you can select one of them as your video thumbnail.” That’s all well and good, but when you’re choosing three frames at random out of hundreds of possible frames, the thumbnail options you supply are usually less than desirable.

Take, for instance, our video compilation of the Best News Bloopers on YouTube. When I uploaded the video I was given a choice of three thumbnails, all taken from the news blooper clips that were included in the compilation, when all I really wanted was the title frame.

I wound up choosing the Bill O’Reilly image because I thought it was the most recognizable. However, I was frustrated that I couldn’t choose the title image or upload my own thumbnails so that all of the videos in our Ultimate Guide To Viral Videos collection could have a consistent design across the board.

YouTube Partners have the option to upload their own thumbnail images and it looks great. Take for instance Ray William Johnson’s video thumbnails. When you see them pop up in YouTube search results you automatically recognize the videos as Ray’s, as he’s used consistent thumbnails to help build his brand.

But why should the option to customize thumbnail images be available only to YouTube partners? Partners already get tons of other amazing benefits, such as the opportunity to share revenue with you, to customize their channel design and to be featured on your homepage. Why give them sole custody of thumbnail customization as well?

Because you give partners the option to upload their own thumbnail images it’s clear that you’ve already got the technology in place, so why not open it up to all users? Vimeo has allowed users to upload their own thumbnail images for as long as I can remember (not to mention the fact that they offer a much larger random selection of thumbnail options. In the last video that I uploaded to Vimeo I had nine thumbnails to choose from and if I didn’t like any of those I had the option to upload my own. And recently announced a new feature that lets users create a thumbnail from any frame within their video, and even edit the thumbnail image from within the interface, no Photoshopping or uploading necessary.

The thumbnail is one of the biggest factors that a viewer takes into consideration when deciding whether or not to watch a video. If a user doesn’t have the option to pick a good thumbnail then they could be missing out on a lot views. Over the summer I uploaded a video of dogs dancing to Justin Bieber for a little experiment we did called ‘Will It Stick?’. The video has gotten 19,500 views so far but I can’t help but think that if I had been able to choose the thumbnail I wanted then we would have gotten even more views.

After I had uploaded the Bieber dogs video I shared it with a few friends and almost all of them asked, “Why did you choose that thumbnail?” My answer? I didn’t have any other option. So YouTube, I guess what I’m trying to say is that it would be nice if you would give me another option.


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