Skip to main content

Digital Trends may earn a commission when you buy through links on our site. Why trust us?

YouTube reduces default video quality for all users for one month

Following similar measures already taken by YouTube in Europe, the Alphabet-owned video giant has decided to switch the default quality of its videos to standard definition for all of its users, according to Bloomberg.

The move is a global one, though it’s not a restriction per se. Users still have the ability to switch to a higher resolution if one is available, but this will have to be done on a video by video basis.

In Europe, officials had asked companies such as Netflix and YouTube to throttle the quality of their video content as a way of proactively helping to reduce the load on the region’s internet infrastructure. Currently, Netflix, YouTube, Amazon Prime Video, and Disney+ have all voluntarily complied with this request.

However, no such request has been issued so far by U.S. officials, which makes YouTube’s decision a curious one. “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, according to Bloomberg, and the publication claims that YouTube’s decision is “a preemptive measure given growing concerns at the government level.”

As recently as March 19, Digital Trends reported that network capacity in the U.S. was not under threat due to an increase in the amount of usage arising from coronavirus, officially known as COVID-19. Nonetheless, we’ve reached out to data analysis company BroadbandNow to see if this has changed with the growing number of Americans being advised to stay home if possible. We’ve also reached out to Amazon to see if the company’s Prime Video platform has any plans to change its streaming quality here. We’ll update this article as soon as we hear back from them.

If you’re among the millions of people staying put right now and you’re looking for some tips on how to make the best of the situation, we have a comprehensive guide to staying home, including:

Editors' Recommendations

Simon Cohen
Contributing Editor, A/V
Simon Cohen covers a variety of consumer technologies, but has a special interest in audio and video products, like…
Multiview almost fixes one of the biggest problems with YouTube TV
Three college football games (and one ad) seen on a large TV on YouTube TV.

Flipping through the myriad college football games on a recent weekend, I was struck by a revelation: Multiview on YouTube TV — even in its imperfect, inflexible form — nearly fixes one of my biggest gripes about the leading live streaming platform.

The "problem" really isn't a problem insofar as anything is actually broken. It's just the way YouTube TV works, and it's almost certainly something done by design. If you're a habitual channel-flipper, you already know full well how streaming services like YouTube TV, Hulu With Live TV, and other options aren't exactly known for making it quick to fly through the channels, one after another.

Read more
YouTube TV in 4K: Everything you need to know
YouTube TV 4K streams settings and user options.

When it comes to streaming live TV in the U.S. (or streaming any kind of video anywhere, for that matter), resolution and bit rate remain as important as ever. And you're now able to enjoy YouTube TV in 4K. Some of it, at least. And if it seems like it's taken forever for that to happen, you're not wrong.

The basic fact is that it takes a lot of bandwidth to stream video — and that's even more difficult when you're talking linear TV, (and more so still if it's a live event like sports). So it's not really that much of a surprise to learn that most live channels stream at 720p resolution — or maybe 1080p if you're lucky. (We'll leave frame rate out of the equation for a minute, but it's a thing, too, especially for sports.)

Read more
YouTube with a blank home screen is a beautiful place
The YouTube app on an iPhone.

I knew it was coming, but it still came as a little bit of a surprise. I opened the YouTube app on my phone and was greeted by … nothing. No Mr. Beast, a video creator whose videos I have never watched -- and never will. No tech tips from an overcaffeinated Peanuts character. (I think. Given my advanced age and inability to find entertainment value in someone trying to sell me something, I may not have that quite right.) No random recipes from someone who somehow managed to hide a full kitchen just off camera in the middle of the woods and preps ingredients using only a hand-carved stone hatchet.

This is YouTube without recommendations. And it is wonderful.

Read more