YouTube lowers default streaming quality in Europe to ease pressure on networks
Google-owned YouTube says it’s scaling back the quality of its streaming video in the United Kingdom and European Union, downgrading the default setting from high definition to standard definition. The move is designed to relieve some of the pressure on broadband networks as increasing numbers of people isolate themselves amid the novel coronavirus pandemic, consuming more streamed content from their homes.
Viewers will still have the option to manually increase the video quality to high definition. But, with default settings already known to have a major influence on users' online preferences, particularly in areas like browser privacy settings, YouTube's move is expected to be successful. The company did not specify whether it intends to apply similar measures in the U.S., but says it is “working closely with governments to do our part." Reuters first reported the news.
"People are coming to YouTube to find authoritative news, learn about new content and make connections during these uncertain times,” a spokeswoman told Ad Age in an emailed statement. “While we have seen only a few usage peaks, we have measures in place to automatically adjust our system to use less network capacity.”
Alphabet CEO Sundar Pichai and YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki met with European leaders prior to making the temporary change. The company adds that it’s working with governments and network operators “to minimize stress on the system, while also delivering a good user experience.”
Given its global influence, Google has been playing an active role in the battle against COVID-19. The company intends to roll out a campaign across Europe in the coming days that encourages people to follow guidance from health authorities. And earlier this month, Pichai posted a letter on the Google's website highlighting several enhancements the tech giant has made to products like Search, Maps and YouTube in light of the pandemic.
The company has also come under criticism with Verily, the health-care unit of Alphabet, for designing a website to screen people in the Bay Area for coronavirus. The website requires a Google account, which critics suggest may be used for advertising purposes.