YouTube is great. Nowhere else can you find a bigger stash of cat videos and weirdness. But it’s also terrible, because videos often don’t load, or only load partially—there’s nothing worse than a video endlessly buffering. But it’s not Google’s fault! No, really. The search giant on Thursday said it’s actually your fault (you and me). Oh, and your Internet provider’s, too.
Google explained that it stores copies of videos on its servers around the world, ensuring the most direct route from Google right to your computer. Once you hit play on a video, the data is sent to your broadband provider and then beamed to you at home. But because Internet tubes are so congested by streaming content, there’s often not enough capacity to receive that data. The consumer, then, the ones who pay for the service, ultimately suffer, getting low resolution video or video that repeatedly buffers.
A new Google Video Quality Report tool has actually been setup by Google, giving consumers the ability to check the level of YouTube video quality provided by an Internet service provider. There are three different ratings: YouTube HD verified, Standard Definition and Lower Definition. There’s also probably another one not mentioned by Google, which I’ve dubbed Buffering Purgatory. Google says it’s able to provide ratings based on anonymized data that’s collected over a 30-day period.
ISPs are essentially in complete control over how quickly that video gets from Google to you, and in what quality. Some factors weigh in more than others, such as during “peak times” when a lot of other subscribers are also trying to watch YouTube (or Netflix, Hulu, etc.). This is essentially why Netflix decided to pay up for “fast lanes” on Comcast, ensuring the quality and performance is top notch.
I tried checking the office’s results today, but nothing was available in our area. I can tell you right now that performance here varies wildly, especially with so many folks here in the office all streaming video at once. But it’s not Google’s fault! Just wait until 4K becomes the standard. Our desire for high resolution will be the end of the Internet (not really).