YouTube Switches to Lower Video Quality Due to Coronavirus Pandemic

Viewers will still be able to “manually adjust” back from standard definition to HD streaming if they want, however

Unsplash / Szabo Viktor

YouTube will be shifting to standard definition streaming as its default setting, the Google-owned company shared on Tuesday morning, as it looks to cutback on bandwidth strain with more people self-isolating at home due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The change was first implemented in several European countries last week, including the United Kingdom, but will now rollout worldwide. YouTube, in its blog post on the matter, said it will be “slowly” implementing the change.

While standard definition will be the new standard, that doesn’t mean high definition streaming is going away. Instead, YouTube viewers will be able to “manually adjust” their video quality moving forward, the company said.

YouTube isn’t the only streaming service taking this course of action. Last week, Netflix reduced its bitrates in Europe, in a move the company said “will reduce Netflix traffic on European networks by around 25%.” Whether similar measures will be taken in the U.S. remains to be seen.

David Clark, a senior research scientist at MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Lab, told TheWrap on Monday he doesn’t anticipate streaming services will need to reduce their quality in the U.S., because there are no indications the U.S. internet infrastructure is in danger of crashing, he said.