Google’s New Video Quality Report is a Big “Fuck You” to ISPs

I’m a marketing nerd, so I’m pretty excited about this Video Quality Report from Google.

How I Found It

I rarely watch YouTube videos. They’re usually a time-suck and I avoid them at all costs. Except last night when I got stuck on a sub-Reddit discussing great movie scenes. Short clips (~2–3 mins) were posted, but the video load was slow. Since I was watching Monday Night Football, it wasn’t a big deal for me to wait. I didn’t really mind the 1st one or 2nd stops in the video having to buffer and load, but it got mildly vexing as it became the 6th or 7th stop. Especially after repeating this for 4 to 5 clips.

Yes, I am! How did they know that?

Then YouTube displayed a notification about slow streaming speeds and whether or not I wanted to read about the “Why” behind it. For want of a clip to watch, I clicked on it.

This is a great marketing tool for Google to explain on a (more) granular level how much YouTube loves you and your content and wants to get it to you as best as possible. It provides a wonderful window into why a user might not be getting the best web all the time.

Your Results

First “analysis” for my shoddy streaming service.

The first graph that Google shows establishes a data-driven why of what is happening in an easy-to-read manner. Simply, the user’s streaming problem is a result of poor timing. The user isn’t getting the highest quality YouTube streaming not because YouTube is bad, but because the network itself has a lot of people on it.

Why It Works

There are two reasons for why this works. First, the graph shows an increase in usage at 9pm (when I’m using it) to easily demonstrate this fact. Everyone can understand this since everyone understands the concept of “rush hour”. This diffuses the emotionality from a “YouTube sucks” problem or a “videos never stream for me” problem to a structural one.

The second reason is that their data is not just YouTube usage by hour of day, but YouTube usage by hour of day by MY ISP in MY city. Forget that there’s the nonparametric “Video Consumption” variable on the vertical axis, it just goes up at night!

That makes sense to me!

It also allows me the option to compare providers in my area, which makes me understand even further how my reliant I am on the type of ISP I’ve selected to provide my internet connection.

Problem defined: poor video streaming by time of day, ISP, geographical placement.

How Video Gets To You

YouTube will explain the realities of the technology

Then YouTube explains the limitations of how the technology works. It’s incredibly pared down and wonderful engaging. Not many people think often about how interconnected the world is. We are economical at every turn with our finite amount of mindshare, so we can focus on what we deem important.

Why It Works

These graphics communicate how YouTube is trying to get its content closer to us. We live in all the far extensions of the world, but still YouTube can service us. The premise is pretty simple and edifying: the world is a big place and YouTube exists in all of them, but it relies on ISPs (and other details) to get to you.

How considerate of them! The world is a big place!

How YouTube does its best

Now begins the “Meet Your Meat” journey from farm to plate for your YouTube video. YouTube is trying its best to serve you the “freshest meat” possible, but (as everyone knows) the best-laid plans of mice & men. It made me feel like I was lucky to be using a service from such smart people at YouTube.

But YouTube isn’t completely in control of the entire streaming process.

YouTube just houses the content. They aren’t in control of the pipes that send the data from their computers to yours. YouTube doesn’t denigrate the ISPs but explains that this is a technical limitation of YouTube providing the best video streaming quality. Notice the use of “important job”, “they must ensure”, and “quality will suffer.”

I wish the ISPs would just do their job!

But the ISPs aren’t completely in control of the entire streaming process either

Now, to the technologically uninitiated, the minutiae of how their home wi-fi network affects their connection is lost on the user. I think it’s nice that YouTube includes all the mitigating details to prime the reader’s brain with “nerd shit” that they probably just swipe aside.

See, I always said that we needed a new router.

All these things combined (plus timing) that affect your video streaming experience.

And YouTube ties a nice bow at the end, creating the conclusion that shows their greatly conceived designed & delivered product relies on a slew of support.

A Faster Web

But making something clear isn’t enough to make a user happy. You have to bring it back to a positive brand experience. And YouTube does just that with their gaze toward the future. Notice the use of a capital “I” in “Internet”. It connotes the feeling that the internet is an object in need of reverence.

I think this is the coup de grace of the entire piece. I think everything YouTube plotted out from the beginning leads to the “What YouTube is Doing”.

Why It Works

YouTube is doing all they can to solve the problem. It explains the bitrate, caching, and codecs they‘re using to “out-smart” the problem. They’re additionally trying to coordinate with ISPs to create a better end product.

So, YouTube is working both internally (with the technology) and externally (on the business side) to work more efficiently for the user.

Well, I’m glad somebody’s thinking about how to solve this problem!


Overall, YouTube is managing user expectations:

It diffuses the users’ frustration. It creates macroscopic perspective where previously there was none. It informs the user of how technologically complicated this process is. Lastly, it empowers the user to make better consumer decisions with regards to their ISP.

No user will hate YouTube after this. YouTube is working its best “nerd magic” to help. The user will not hate themselves for wanting to watch another cute cat video. Yet frustration will linger since nothing’s perfect.

Cool! YouTube’s not the source of my problem…

So, who is?

Written by

I do things. Huge nerd otherwise. Interested in all types of media & creative-ish forms of expressions. Rawr!!

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