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YouTube Surveying Streaming Quality

Running the world's largest video-sharing site isn't easy, and if you've ever tried to watch a video, only to be greeted with that tantalizing "buffering" icon, then you've experienced that first hand. Now, YouTube's taking another big step towards improving the quality of their streams. The Google Video Quality Report is set to help fill that role.

The system tests your connection and playback speed against a few different standards: HD verified, which is a solid 720p feed; and Standard Definition, which runs at 360p and Lower Definition, or 240p. YouTube is aware of the potential privacy concerns of a system like this and announced in a blog post that their data was "completely anonymized" and that "ratings are centered around networks, not users."

Google is hoping to quickly expand the program to help more folks watching videos in "glorious HD" as soon as possible. You can try the report out for yourself here, and also pick up a few tips for improving your score.

One of the more interesting bits of the report is that it can also provide you in-depth information about when videos are most widely viewed (9pm or so here in Minneapolis), and even comes with a tool to help select better Internet providers in your area should you need a bit of a boost. You can also read up on how YouTube actually breaks its videos down and what it does to try to minimize the amount of time you actually spend buffering videos, though besides some neat web graphics, there's nothing too revelatory there.

While all of this may be interesting for the data-obsessed, it's also a bit predictable. Google is a company that desperately needs the Internet to work as well as possible for as many people as possible, which is one of the many reasons Google fiber makes a lot of sense from their perspective. This is just one more example of that dedication to making sure their users are using the best network possible so they can serve up videos (and by extension ads) in glorious High Definition. God help us all when 4K becomes commonplace, though. 

  • nthreem
    Does Youtube also prioritize their stream bandwidth based on video popularity? I don't know if it's a coincidence, but when I've been stricken with the forever "buffering" issues, it seems to occur with low view-rate videos.

    But if I play a popular video, I don't have any buffering issues even when watching in HD.
    Reply
  • DookieDraws
    I used to have (recently) issues with youtube constantly buffering, even with my fast speed of 35Mbps internet, until I installed AdBlock for my browser. I know AdBlock is to specifically block ads, so I am unsure what has happened, but I can now watch ANY video on youtube without any buffering issues at all. When I click play, the video immediately starts playing. Fyi, I use Opera web browser for my internet ramblings. Try my setup and see if this helps you, too.

    Good luck! :)
    Reply
  • SinxarKnights
    Does Youtube also prioritize their stream bandwidth based on video popularity? I don't know if it's a coincidence, but when I've been stricken with the forever "buffering" issues, it seems to occur with low view-rate videos.

    But if I play a popular video, I don't have any buffering issues even when watching in HD.

    That seems to be the case and has been for quite some time now. It may be how their network is set up. A while back I (and a lot of other people) where having issues with videos not buffering properly. It would play a bit then stop, play... stop. I did some research on the issue and it only affected low view videos. Anything on popular channels played just fine.

    My theory is that it is divided up with the low subscription channels hosted on a cheaper/slower network while the big channels get to live on the main servers. It would make sense but I don't work there so its all just speculation.
    Reply
  • zigzaggar
    Does Youtube also prioritize their stream bandwidth based on video popularity? I don't know if it's a coincidence, but when I've been stricken with the forever "buffering" issues, it seems to occur with low view-rate videos.

    But if I play a popular video, I don't have any buffering issues even when watching in HD.

    That seems to be the case and has been for quite some time now. It may be how their network is set up. A while back I (and a lot of other people) where having issues with videos not buffering properly. It would play a bit then stop, play... stop. I did some research on the issue and it only affected low view videos. Anything on popular channels played just fine.

    My theory is that it is divided up with the low subscription channels hosted on a cheaper/slower network while the big channels get to live on the main servers. It would make sense but I don't work there so its all just speculation.

    I saw a video on this, I think it was on computerphile, a youtube channel.
    As I remember it the way the system works is that videos are stored on servers across the world and when you view a video you have to make a bunch of hops over the internet to reach that specific server with that specific video.

    When enough people view it in your area that file is brought over to a server near you to be more efficient. So the chances that a highly popular video has been seen by people in your neighborhood is greater than on low view count videos.

    In short, the files are scattered across the globe, if the demand in an area for a specific video is great enough a copy is made at a closer sever, closer video = faster download. A low count video is probably on a server far away because there isn't a large enough interest in your area.
    Reply
  • hitman40
    I used to have (recently) issues with youtube constantly buffering, even with my fast speed of 35Mbps internet, until I installed AdBlock for my browser. I know AdBlock is to specifically block ads, so I am unsure what has happened, but I can now watch ANY video on youtube without any buffering issues at all. When I click play, the video immediately starts playing. Fyi, I use Opera web browser for my internet ramblings. Try my setup and see if this helps you, too.

    Good luck! :)

    That is because of DASH playback Youtube implemented a while ago. DASH stands for Dynamic Adaptive Streaming over HTTP, meaning that it loads a segment, then when you arrive to that segment, it loads the next one. Before DASH, videos would keep loading if you paused the video.

    To turn off DASH playback, download a browser addon called Youtube Center (basically expands the Youtube settings so you have more options) and disable DASH. Then, whatever your ISP gives you will load your entire videos.
    Reply
  • weatherdude
    "God help us all when 4K becomes commonplace, though."

    You can say that again. The bandwidth requirements for that would be HUGE. Just watching 4K content on a box in front of a TV is difficult, requiring HDMI 1.4 I think. High Efficiency Video Codec (HEVC), VP9, and Daala would make it easier though.
    Reply
  • Realist9
    I used to have (recently) issues with youtube constantly buffering, even with my fast speed of 35Mbps internet, until I installed AdBlock for my browser. I know AdBlock is to specifically block ads, so I am unsure what has happened, but I can now watch ANY video on youtube without any buffering issues at all. When I click play, the video immediately starts playing. Fyi, I use Opera web browser for my internet ramblings. Try my setup and see if this helps you, too.

    Good luck! :)

    That is because of DASH playback Youtube implemented a while ago. DASH stands for Dynamic Adaptive Streaming over HTTP, meaning that it loads a segment, then when you arrive to that segment, it loads the next one. Before DASH, videos would keep loading if you paused the video.

    To turn off DASH playback, download a browser addon called Youtube Center (basically expands the Youtube settings so you have more options) and disable DASH. Then, whatever your ISP gives you will load your entire videos.

    Sorry about the 'r' comment. I had some trouble registering with the website.

    Anyway, if you disable DASH, you give up 1080p. Youtube detects if you have DASH turned off, and if you do, it will not let you play videos in 1080p. It will let you go up to 720p and that's it. I think that's crap, but they make the rules, not us.
    Reply
  • Truckinupga
    What I don't understand is why my ISP can now offer up to 150 Mbps for residential and over a 1000 Mbps for business' and all over the country I hear of people lucky to get 15 Mbps. I live in a rural area well outside of a small town and get 105 Mbps for $49.99 (US) a month. I dropped it from 150 Mbps for $99.99 a month to save money and I felt that the lower tier would be plenty and it is. But even at that speed you will still find many websites that are slow due to their server restrictions. Why can't this country (USA) catch up to the changes such as 4K capable bandwidth? Even most of my cable channels are still 720p. 4K television and streaming still has a long ways to go thanks to the ISP's and Cable providers.
    Reply
  • alidan
    What I don't understand is why my ISP can now offer up to 150 Mbps for residential and over a 1000 Mbps for business' and all over the country I hear of people lucky to get 15 Mbps. I live in a rural area well outside of a small town and get 105 Mbps for $49.99 (US) a month. I dropped it from 150 Mbps for $99.99 a month to save money and I felt that the lower tier would be plenty and it is. But even at that speed you will still find many websites that are slow due to their server restrictions. Why can't this country (USA) catch up to the changes such as 4K capable bandwidth? Even most of my cable channels are still 720p. 4K television and streaming still has a long ways to go thanks to the ISP's and Cable providers.

    because the us isnt a small country hand has a backbone of legacy hardware.
    Reply
  • thechief73
    God help us all when 4K becomes commonplace, though.
    It has been well over a decade since 1080p and US based ISP's, communication regulators, and other content providers are not even close to providing this country with 1080p content, whom in their delusional mind thinks 4k will become a viable format in the next decade or more? Were all just too damn busy killing terrorists still.
    and all over the country I hear of people lucky to get 15 Mbps. I live in a rural area well outside of a small town and get 105 Mbps for $49.99 (US) a month.

    1.5 Mbps $38/mth, suburbs of one largest cities in the state. local lines are oversold. AT&T has not allowed to upgrade line speed in two years. 768kbps is all that is offered now, while they just pocket our monthly bills that should be going to upgrade the old and congested infrastructure and use it instead for corporate bonuses, acquisitions, mergers, and lobbyists. AT&T and Comcast run this area. Neither have upgraded the lines to increase capacity in years. Both use demand to jack up prices, offer less, and package schemes/speed tiers to make purchasing more services than you need almost unavoidable.

    Call AT&T once, just for fun, ask them a VERY simple question and write down how many times you are "transferred" to another person that still can't answer said question.

    I am going to stop there, could go on for days.
    Reply