YouTube lowers video quality to stop internet from breaking

YouTube lowers streaming quality in Europe to reduce internet traffic
(Image credit: YouTube)

Yesterday Netflix announced that it's lowering video quality to reduce the strain on the internet – and now, according to Reuters, YouTube has followed suit.  The video platform is cutting quality in Europe as thousands of people, social distancing due to the coronavirus pandemic, work - and watch videos – from home. 

In a statement, YouTube said: “We are making a commitment to temporarily switch all traffic in the EU to standard definition by default.”

The decision to switch from high-definition (HD) to standard definition (SD) by default comes after EU commissioner Thierry Breton successfully convinced Netflix CEO Reed Hastings to ease the load on Europe's networks by lowering bitrate for 30 days.

Breton tweeted on Wednesday: "#SwitchToStandard definition when HD is not necessary... Teleworking & streaming help a lot but infrastructures might be in strain." 

The EU data chief subsequently spoke to Alphabet CEO Sundar Pichai and YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki, who agreed to support the EU's #SwitchToStandard campaign. 

There's no word on when the drop in YouTube quality will happen or how long the restrictions will last but Vodafone, TalkTalk and BT have all reporting surges in internet traffic in recent days. Experts are worried that vital technologies such as e-learning and video calling could soon be affected.

On a more positive note, BT has said that while weekday daytime traffic has shot up by 35 to 60 percent, it's "nowhere near" it's network's full capacity.


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  • simonali
    Why only in Europe? Why aren't these American companies turning down the quality in America, too?
  • Most of the backbone datacenters are in the US. There are undersea fiberoptic cables that handle most of the load. I imagine it's to keep those, which have a limited bandwidth, open for critical traffic. Most sites are also throttling speeds to Australia. Same situation.
  • manicm
    Hearing everyone is reducing their stream quality but nobody says to what? Level at 1080p, 720, 480?
  • d_wade95
    manicm said:
    Hearing everyone is reducing their stream quality but nobody says to what? Level at 1080p, 720, 480?
    The article states that default streaming quality will be "Standard Definition"
    Which is usually 480p (SD). Which was the standard for most DVD's. (480i if you want to get technical)
    720p was considered to be
    "High Definition" or "HD" along with
    1080p which is "Full HD" and now
    2160p which is "4K/UHD"
    Hope this helped clear things up!