With around 2 billion active users per month, YouTube is an unmatched giant among internet video streaming platforms. With this many people active on YouTube, it’s no surprise that the gigantic platform runs into slow performance issues. What causes this slowness? It comes down to several factors. Some factors are on YouTube’s end (like overloaded servers) and some are based on every user’s unique streaming experience (compatibility issues). Let’s look at what may be causing a slow YouTube experience.
Overloaded server issues do happen from time to time. With over 5 billion views every day around the world, overloaded servers are common and cause slow running performance for some users. This happens when too many page requests are being sent out at the same time. In response, YouTube rapidly adjusts their platform to handle the demand. People are streaming on TV more than ever before as watch time jumped 80% year over year in March 2020. In fact, YouTube even announced that they would temporarily reduce the quality of videos in Europe at the same time. As more people worked from home during the Pandemic, YouTube saw a surge in usage. They reduced quality in order to lessen stress on the system.
YouTube is optimized to run on their own browser: Google Chrome. If you didn’t know YouTube is owned by Google who created Google Chrome back in 2008. Today, Chrome is the most popular browser in the world taking up nearly 50% of the market share. Safari is the second most popular browser choice among users, soaking up another 30% of the market share. With a growing number of Chrome users it’s hard to blame YouTube to base their platform around their own browser. All the other browsers such as Firefox and Edge combining for the remaining 20% of the market share are overlooked. These browsers deal with far more compatibility issues simply because YouTube is unmotivated to work with them.
YouTube is believed to run five times slower on Firefox and Edge. With how fast YouTube is changing, less popular browsers are almost incompatible with YouTube playback. If you use one of these browsers and wish to try something else, fortunately they are free to download. The navigation may be different, but if you’re a frequent YouTube user, it may be worth the switch for a smoother experience.
Using outdated web browsers can cause compatibility issues. Software is constantly updating to enhance both speed and security. It’s essential to update your web browsers because it helps your streaming experience run smoothly. Over the years, YouTube has moved from the video quality standard of 480p to 720p. Top performing devices with updated browsers take it one step further and play videos in the superior 1080p quality setting. But just because your device could play 1080p doesn’t mean that the video will automatically start playing with no flaws. 1080p is handled by the most up to date browsers that can play videos without skipping, crashing, and constant buffering of videos. While every browser is different, in most cases you can go into your browser settings or About menu item and find if your browser is up to date.
YouTube will automatically adjust your video quality based on the quality of your device, browser, and internet speed. Video quality is determined by the internet connection of the viewer. YouTube determines the maximum quality that a viewer’s internet connection can handle video playback without losing speed. However, the automatic quality setting can run into issues if you have an unstable internet connection. A connection that fluctuates in speed regularly makes it difficult for YouTube to properly assess what quality your videos should be playing in.
The causes of an inconsistent internet connection vary from each person. Do you walk around the house while a video is playing on a mobile device? Are you sharing a public connection in a library with several people? If you typically deal with long loading times and buffering videos, consider changing YouTube’s automatic video resolution quality setting.
Try taking the following steps to manually set your own video quality resolution:
- While watching a video, click on the settings button in the bottom right corner shaped like a gear symbol.
- After, click the Quality button and a drop down menu appears
- The drop down menu has a list of resolution options to choose from
- Search for Auto and see if a checkmark is next to it
- If Auto is checkmarked, manually click on a low setting (such as 240p)
- Refresh the page and play the video again
- If the video plays fine with no buffering, select the next highest quality (360p)
- Repeat the previous two steps until you find your optimal quality without speed issues
So, why is YouTube so slow? While it seems like there could be a simple answer, it usually depends on your unique streaming experience. At times, it could be crowded YouTube servers that are overloaded. Othertimes it could be caused by an outdated web browser. Fortunately, most of the time, only simple tweaks are required to optimize your full YouTube experience.
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