YouTube was one of the companies that reduced the default quality of videos amidst the extra stress on networks caused by the COVID-19 lockdown in order to curb eventual connectivity outages.
Thing of March
YouTube was planning on defaulting all videos to SD (standard definition) aka 480p, An effort by the world’s most popular video site to ease internet traffic during the coronavirus outbreak. In Europe because apparently networks can’t cope with all the people staying at home due to coronavirus-related movement restrictions.
Now this thing is going global. Not the pandemic, mind you, that already kind of is. We’re talking about YouTube defaulting to SD. This will be rolling out everywhere over the next few days, for a month. Obviously there’s the possibility of an extension after said month will pass.
So when you will want to play any YouTube video it will start off in SD (480p), but you can still manually choose to up the resolution if you want to. It’s just that you’ll have to do that for every single video, every single time. So YouTube is betting a lot of people won’t go through that procedure, and thus this move will relieve the pressure on ISPs.
Because obviously, no one’s ever watched YouTube videos at work before, people are only now discovering the service since they’re stuck at home. It’s unclear why such a preemptive move was needed – after all, there have been no widespread Internet outages anywhere, even with billions of people self-isolating and social distancing and whatnot. But sometimes the appearance of doing ‘something’ is apparently preferable to people (and companies), even if there’s no actual reason for the move. And this is YouTube’s ‘something’. Enjoy the 90s again, with their amazing default resolution!
Use of streaming services has surged in recent months as hundreds of millions of people stay home to contain the spread of the virus. While YouTube viewing has historically spiked in the evening when people are off work, consumption is now more steady across the day, the company said.
Streaming video requires more internet bandwidth than music, messaging, or maps because of the size of the files transmitted. Google was the largest consumer of traffic volume on the internet last year, just ahead of Netflix, according to a study by Sandvine, a network analysis firm. Recently, YouTube traffic has surged, even more, Sandvine reported last week.
YouTube already limits the quality of the video based on the strength of a user’s internet connection. YouTube doesn’t believe the world will run out of internet bandwidth any time soon but is taking a preemptive measure given growing concerns at the government level.
“We continue to work closely with governments and network operators around the globe to do our part to minimize stress on the system during this unprecedented situation,” Google said in a statement.
To watch YouTube videos in 1080p on mobile, you need to connect to a WiFi network, tap on the three-dot menu button in the top right corner of the video, and then tap on 1080p from the settings.
The platform opened in 480p on Android and iOS devices in India, but now videos are back at the 1080p default option.
Some users of YouTube have reported that 1080p is back, although it works only when on Wi-Fi. When the phone is on 4G, the app will automatically start videos in SD, or 480p.
Switching between different quality settings was always available for all users, Indian or not. Even if the app defaults at 480p, no one is there to stop you from playing a video in 1080p or even 4K, provided there’s enough bandwidth, of course.
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