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YouTube cuts back default stream quality worldwide to keep governments happy

YouTube cuts back default stream quality worldwide to keep governments happy
[Photo: NordWood Themes/Unsplash]

After Netflix, YouTube, Amazon, Apple, and Disney all promised to reduce video quality in Europe, YouTube is extending that policy worldwide. For the next month, YouTube videos will stream in standard definition by default, Bloomberg reports. While users will still be able to stream in high definition, they’ll have to choose that option manually after playback begins.

At least in the United States, the move probably isn’t necessary from a practical standpoint. Internet providers have said that they’re prepared for an uptick in demand as people stay at home due to the coronavirus pandemic, and many of them have even relaxed their data caps (which do little to deter internet usage anyway). The internet speed measurement firm Ookla hasn’t reported any major slowdowns either, and many streaming providers (including YouTube) already adjust bit rates based on users’ internet speeds.

Still, streaming video providers are under pressure from governments to make sure their services aren’t interfering with any essential functions as COVID-19 spreads. And at least on mobile devices, where YouTube use dominates, users may have trouble seeing the difference between standard definition and high definition video anyway.

“We continue to work closely with governments and network operators around the globe to do our part to minimize stress on the system during this unprecedented situation,” Google, which owns YouTube, said in a statement to Bloomberg.

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