Searching your YouTube history

October 4, 2016

You’ve just remembered a great video you saw on YouTube several weeks ago, and want to share it with your friend. But what was the video again?

You head to YouTube History, but it was a while ago and even though you can scroll forever, you’re not sure you’d spot it.

So instead you click on Search History to search your history. But alas, it’s just a history of your searches.

But there is a way! Head to Google’s MyActivity page, select YouTube from the list of items, and search away.

Why doesn’t YouTube let you search your history? It would be dead-simple to implement: they already show you a list of things you’ve seen—just let you search it! The roundaboutness required here reminds me of another age-old UI conundrum: trying to look up Facebook friends by city. I.e., suppose you’re planning a trip to San Francisco and you want to see who among your friends live there. Not who has “been there” or who “has lived there”—but who has their “Current city” set to San Francisco. It’s such a common search need, and it’s a search of non-private information that is available to you by other means (one-by-one lookup), but it’s a feature that is missing, seemingly by design.

But there is actually a way around it: set your own current city to the city you want to search in; then, visit the “current city” tab in your own friends list. Of course, this muddies Facebook’s own database of where you have lived; and you may want to delete the “X set their current city as Y” event from your feed.