As the world grapples with social distancing, and India goes into what feels like its nth day of lockdown, YouTube has announced that they’re going to be changing the playback quality of the video playback to standard definition (SD) or more commonly known as 480p. The decision comes after Google observed a major uptake in the number of people streaming YouTube videos throughout the day.
The move comes in the wake of the fact that more people are now stuck at home, whether working or not and hence, streaming more content as a means of passing the time. Across Europe, all streaming services such as Netflix and Amazon Prime had reduced the default streaming quality as the infrastructure came under heavy load. Google says that the kind of uptake in traffic they’re seeing on YouTube “won't break the internet,” but the company is limiting the stream quality anyway to reduce the strain on ISP and telcos.
In India, YouTube streaming has been capped at 480p, but only for mobile devices. Even if you’re connected to a home Wi-Fi network, your mobile device will not stream YouTube content in quality higher than 480p. This is strange because you can stream YouTube content in up to 4K (content willing) if you’re on a computer. In fact, if you choose to forego the YouTube app and use the browser on your phone instead, you can get a slightly higher quality stream at 720p.
According to a report by Bloomberg, there’s been a steady rise of 20 percent in online streaming since the Coronavirus outbreak. This has started to put a strain on many countries’ internet infrastructure, which has led to this move by Google.