Twitch tests new category layout and viewers have strong feelings on autoplaying video

A laptop and phone displaying the Twitch logo.
(Image credit: NurPhoto via Getty.)

Twitch has rolled out one of its biggest changes to the site layout in years, though it is currently still in testing and so may not show for all viewers of the site (yet). The site has had various UI tweaks over the years, although the core design has remained pretty consistent, but the intent with this change seems to be boosting discoverability. What it actually means in practice, however, is now the hot topic among streamers and viewers.

So what has Twitch done: It's changed the category layout. When you click on a game or topic you're interested in watching a stream of, the site used to take you to a browsable grid view of all current livestreams, ranked by viewer count. The new layout replaces this with an auto-playing video of the current most-popular stream, which dominates the screen real estate, and a single line of other available streams can be scrolled-through at the bottom. Here is what it looks like.

The first and most obvious bone of contention is autoplaying video. Boy do people hate autoplaying video and, yes, I realise the irony of these words. Twitch's thinking seems to be that, if someone's interested in a topic, the site should throw them right in there then let the viewer flick through their other options.

The most important thing to say, before getting to the reaction, is that Twitch's intention also seems to be that viewers can choose the more traditional layout if they wish. If you're using Twitch and get the new category layout, add /list to the end of the url to change back.

Optional or no, it almost goes without saying that a lot of people hate it. "Whenever I go to Twitch I don't wanna be 'thrown' into a random stream which is why I avoid the main page of Twitch like the plague," writes viewer Ilsyer. "Now they also throw you into the highest viewer stream of the game category and makes it harder to find streams I'm actually interested in... so they not only killed my work around, but push me into something I'm most likely not interested in while making it harder to find the streams I would be interested in."

It's not hard to find threads full of folk complaining about the change, saying it's "trash" etecetera. As ever with changes to a long-standing design, some reactions will be over the top and more about the fact anything's changing than the nature of the change itself.

Other reactions were way more positive, such as that of streamer (and Twitch partner) LowCo, who reckos this will ultimately be good for the discoverability of smaller creators.

One theory that didn't last long was that Twitch had done this for the dollars: That is, auto-playing videos to auto-serve ads. Steve Mz, principal product manager at Twitch, immediately nipped this in the bud, writing that there are "no ads in this view."

Either way it's coming soon to a streaming platform near you. Twitch isn't a site anymore so much as part of the culture, and seems too big to fail. That doesn't mean it doesn't have fails, of course. The feud with Dr Disrespect, once the platform's biggest name, is apparently over but seems to remain an open wound. And its intersection with popular culture, such as the loathsome stuff that went on around the Depp-Heard trial, shows the platform still has stuff to work out that's maybe more important than a layout change.

Rich Stanton

Rich is a games journalist with 15 years' experience, beginning his career on Edge magazine before working for a wide range of outlets, including Ars Technica, Eurogamer, GamesRadar+, Gamespot, the Guardian, IGN, the New Statesman, Polygon, and Vice. He was the editor of Kotaku UK, the UK arm of Kotaku, for three years before joining PC Gamer. He is the author of a Brief History of Video Games, a full history of the medium, which the Midwest Book Review described as "[a] must-read for serious minded game historians and curious video game connoisseurs alike."