Tuesday December 11th 2018

Is Youtube Broken?

Television set mock-up.

Mention youtube, and many people think of funny cat videos. But there is more to youtube than the grumpy cat.

There is a tremendous amount of awesome video material available on You can watch old classic television shows like Leave It To Beaver, new classic shows like That 70’s Show. performances by musical artists like Buck Owens from old TV shows from the 1960s, documentary films on every subject imaginable, algebra lessons from Khan Academy, the list of youtube videos goes on and on.

I personally enjoy watching BBC history documentaries on youtube. Many of these shows have multiple hour-long episodes. With a fast internet connection, youtube has worked fine. Until this year.

Problems with Youtube Streaming
Lately, I have had difficulty getting to play all the way through without stopping.

They way youtube used to work, when you click the play button, your browser would begin streaming and buffering the video, and then begin playing. The video would continue streaming to the end, buffering the entire file in your local computer.

People with slower connections would pause the video to allow it to complete downloading before playing.

But this year, youtube, which is owned by Google, changed the way they deliver videos over the internet. They introduced something called DASH (Dynamic Adaptive Streaming over HTTP). Now you tube only buffers about 20 seconds ahead.

I imagine that the goal of DASH is to reduce demand on the youtube servers. Instead of downloading the entire video, only download the part that the users will likely watch.

DASH Doesn’t Work
The only problem with DASH is that it doesn’t work. What happens is the download halts entirely and the video freezes after some time. Sometimes downloading starts up again after several minutes. Sometimes you can click a little ahead to get to it started again. But usually it never re-starts and you have to re-load the page.

DASH makes watching youtube videos unwatchable. So is it possible to get rid of it?

How to Disable DASH
You will need to download and install an extension to your browser called YoutubeCenter. You can download YoutubeCenter for Firefox, Crome & Opera 15, Safari  from this page: Github: YePpHa / YouTubeCenter

After installing, go to YoutubeCenter puts a little gear icon in the upper right of the youtube window. Click the gear icon to open the YoutubeCenter control panel. Under playback, uncheck Dash Playback. This video explains it well:

I downloaded and installed YoutubeCenter on both Safari and Chrome, and they seemed to work. Now the whole video is downloaded.

Will It Continue Working?
Who knows just for how long this fix will work. Youtube/Google wants to move to DASH. If everyone disables DASH, Google may decide to disallow the old streaming method entirely. Unless they fix the problems with DASH, that would be a disaster for users and youtube.

Other Youtube Problems with some ISPs
Apparently some Internet Service Providers (ISPs), notable Time Warner Cable (TWC), do something that ruins the youtube experience for their customers. Apparently they throttle the video downloads from Youtube’s CDN, or Content Delivery Network, which are servers that host cached videos.

The fix is to block those IP address, forcing the videos to come straight from youtube instead of from the cache servers. The command you need is ipfw. ipfw is the low-level firewall built into FreeBSD. It can be found at /sbin/ipfw

On Mac OSX, you open up a terminal window and run the following commands. You will need the root password to run them.

$ sudo ipfw add reject src-ip in
$ sudo ipfw add reject src-ip in

Check that the rules were add by

$ sudo ipfw list

You can delete the rules you just added using the delete option on the reference numbers from the list option:

$ sudo ipfw list
00100 reject ip from to any in
65535 allow ip from any to any
$ sudo ipfw delete 00100
$ sudo ipfw list
65535 allow ip from any to any

Router-level Fix
You can also block IP addresses in your router. For example, for a Verizon router, see this article: How-to: Reddit YouTube firewall rule with MI424wr

This fix may not apply to all users, just those with TWC and other ISPs that throttle the youtube cache servers.

1. Return to YouTube’s old way of buffering full videos

2. [Internet] Possible YouTube Fix

3. Github: YePpHa / YouTubeCenter

4. How to stop TWC ISPs sucking at Youtube February 24, 2013 by Mitch

5. Fix youtube buffering issue using Youtube Center youtube video from Technophileshub

6. CommandLineMac: Intro to ipfw

7. Configuring IPFW firewalls on OS X

8. Disabling Youtube’s built-in throttling options

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