YouTube: A Plea For Better Playback Options

Greetings, ladies and gentlemen!

On this blog, I have typically discussed the design of videos games and game features. Today, I am going to be discussing something a little different. This particular discussion is still going to be focused on design, but it shan’t be related to video games. Instead, I will be discussing the design of a free service that millions of people use on a regular basis. The service in question is Google’s video sharing service known as YouTube.

Logo - YouTubesYouTube is great! There is a ton of entertaining content that can’t be found on television. YouTube has a huge library of videos to enjoy. Users can choose to subscribe to an assortment of “channels” with a simple click. I am subscribed to several content creators who release videos regularly, and I find it to be more enjoyable than most shows on television. So, where is the problem?

I can honestly say that my experience with YouTube has never been overwhelmingly negative. However, I have occasionally found myself at odds with the video player. Sometimes it is the result of an update that was made, and those issues don’t typically last. Other times the videos I am watching are interrupted by a feature of the video player. Most recently, I have run into issues with the ‘Auto’ setting in the video player’s ‘Quality’ options.

The following are a couple notes that I took down recording instances of the ‘Auto’ setting interrupting my viewing of YouTube content. The first note, dated for December, is the note that prompted the creation of this post. These are not the only instances I have experienced, but merely the ones I have recorded for this topic.

  • 12/15/2015: I just had a couple videos reduce the quality from 720p to 360p or below while they were playing. This has only happened while the “Quality” setting was set to Auto, which all videos seem to be set to be default. I fucking hate that…
  • 1/3/2016: Watching a video that is only 15 minutes long. The ‘Auto’ quality setting is on (I forgot to turn it off). At ~12:30, the video quality drops from 720p60 to 480p…

The above notes are examples of an annoyance I have encountered with the YouTube video player. The ‘Auto’ setting can drastically reduce the quality of a video while it is playing. This can be annoying for longer videos, because it distracts from the content that is playing while also making it look like shit. The only way to avoid this from happening is to manually change the ‘Quality’ setting to anything that isn’t ‘Auto’. This isn’t difficult, but it becomes incredibly tedious if you’re like me and watch several videos consecutively.

Now, it isn’t like I don’t make an attempt to solve the annoying issue I am facing, but YouTube doesn’t give me much to work with…

YouTube - PlaybackOptionsOfFailure

This is the extent of the playback settings offered by YouTube. Anytime I run into an issue with the video player, I start rummaging through YouTube’s settings. Every single time I have made it to the playback settings in search of hope, I am reminded of how remarkably disappointing they are. There is not a single option in the playback settings that cannot be modified from the video player. While I can bypass the stupidity of the ‘Auto’ quality setting with each video I view, there is absolutely nothing in the playback settings to eliminate the tedium that exists.

The playback settings have never been particularly useful, however. YouTube has seen fit to place many of the control options of the video player in the player itself. This is totally fine, but there needs to be finer controls than what the video player provides. Especially, when the video player has a setting that can so easily disrupt the viewing of content. Simply put, the playback settings need to be updated.

When I started this post, I thought I was going to have a lot of ideas that could be added to the playback settings to make them better. Now, I have reached this point in the post and I realize that the ideas I actually have only fix the issues I have faced recently. I no longer want to fight with the video player to enjoy YouTube’s content the way I have been for several years. I want the playback settings to possess options that allow me to define my viewing preferences without having to touch the settings in the video player with every single video I watch. Is that too much to ask for?

Here are the ideas I came up with that could be added to YouTube:

  • Minimum Quality: This is an option that would be added to the playback settings. It forces the video player to set any video a user watches to the minimum quality they have set. If the quality setting that is set is not available for a particular video, such is the case with many older videos, then the next highest quality will be used. For each new video that is started, the video player will ignore any changes made to its quality settings during a previous video, and consult this setting before starting the video.
  • Disable Auto: This is an option that would be added to the playback settings. It would allow users to toggle the ‘Auto’ quality setting with a simple check box or a yes/no prompt. Personally, this feature of the quality setting should just be removed, because it doesn’t really serve any meaningful purpose. At least, I haven’t seen it yet.
  • Smart Scaling: This is a term I am using for a function that would be added to the YouTube video player. It is a feature that already exists with the Twitch player when one uses the ‘pop-out’ or ‘theater mode’ functions. Basically, the size of the video player would scale itself with the size of the window it is being viewed in. Since I tend to have two Chrome windows open on either side of my one monitor, the one that typically has YouTube open would benefit from this feature.

Well, that’s all I have to say about this subject. YouTube isn’t awful by any means, but it does occasionally do things that are annoying enough to merit mention. The only thing to do now is to wait for Google/YouTube to see this, and possibly update their playback settings. I don’t have high hopes at this point, because the playback settings have remained the same for as long as I have been using YouTube (several years). So….

What do you think of my playback option ideas? Have you run into little annoyances with YouTube? Am I alone in my occasional struggles with YouTube’s video player (I honestly wouldn’t be surprised)? Join the discussion below.

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Thanks for reading to the end. I hope you’ll be back for the next one.

War Fist out.

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