On every platform, from Twitter to Instagram to Google Docs, the practice of mentioning and tagging someone by typing an “@” symbol followed by their chosen name or handle is now well established—but YouTube is still playing catch up.
The internet’s biggest video site has only just gotten around to introducing handles for its users, giving everyone on the platform an easier way to communicate with each other, credit each other, and generally keep in touch.
“Every channel will have a unique handle, making it easier for fans to discover content and interact with creators they love,” YouTube says. For the time being at least, handles exist alongside channel names and custom channel URLs—so a page with a custom URL can be reached at that address and a new youtube.com/@handle address as well.
If you have a YouTube channel—so you’ve either uploaded at least one video or left at least one comment on the platform—you will eventually get a handle. How quickly you’ll be invited to do so depends on your subscriber count and how active you are on YouTube. You can find an official FAQ on how handles work here.
Choosing a Handle
YouTube is rolling out handles slowly, with high-profile creators getting access first. When your time comes around, you’ll get an email in your inbox for the account that you’ve registered with YouTube: Look for a “You can now choose your YouTube handle” email. If you log in to YouTube Studio, you might also see a message telling you “It’s time to choose your handle” with a Choose now button attached.
Click on this button or the Choose a handle link in the email you received to get started. Remember that this handle is going to identify you across the site, in mentions and comments and videos, so it’s worth giving some thought to the one you’re going to use—while also bearing in mind the usernames you use across other social media sites, of course.
In some cases, YouTube will have already created a reserved username for you based on your existing channel URL or username. If there is a handle that’s been saved for you, you’ll see it appear first—click Change handle and you can either confirm that you accept the pick or edit the handle to something else. When you’re done, click Confirm selection. You’ll see a confirmation screen and a new URL that links to your channel page.
To find these settings later, go to YouTube Studio, then click on Customization and Basic info. YouTube says that you can change your handle whenever you want, though it’s not immediately clear whether there will be any limit on how often changes can be made—and there’s also a policy in place limiting the use of “violent, offensive, sexualized, or spammy” handles that you need to be aware of.
Using YouTube Handles
It’s still very early days for YouTube handles, so you won’t see them everywhere on the platform immediately. You might have already noticed some of the biggest and most well-known YouTube channels promoting their new handles and using them to direct people to their channel page: For example, you can now head over to www.youtube.com/@mkbhd for Marques Brownlee, and www.youtube.com/@wired will get you to our own channel.
YouTube says that handles will be “shown in more places over time” as the feature gets more traction and as YouTube expands the ways in which it can be used. Two of the most prominent areas you’ll see handles in are video descriptions, where they can be used to mention collaborators, and in video comments, where you can give a shout-out to another user on the platform.
For example, if a YouTube creator has been working on a video that features appearances from other YouTubers, they can be mentioned via their handles in the description. In the same way, if you want to draw someone’s attention to a particular video or get the attention of the person that uploaded it, you’ll be able to mention them in the comments—similar to how mentions work on platforms such as Twitter.
The familiar “@” symbol is used to indicate that you want to mention another YouTube user in a video description, video comment, or community post. Unlike channel names, YouTube handles are all unique, and they’ll also appear in other areas of the platform like search results. Of course, you can also promote your YouTube handle elsewhere on the web, like the bios that you’ve written for your other social media profiles.