Deep under the Earth’s crust, where few mortals dare to tread, engineers are busy at work in YouTube’s HQ in San Bruno, CA. Okay, so maybe it doesn’t exist at the planet’s core, but YouTube and Google, historically, are cagey about forthcoming tech enhancements and software updates — an underground fortress wouldn’t be all that surprising.
Website Gizmodo was invited to YouTube’s HQ recently and discovered the video-sharing site’s plan to eliminate video lag once and for all. It’s a massive undertaking on YouTube’s part, but according to Gizmodo’s article covering the mission, they are up to the task.
Back in 2012, YouTube implemented a technique they called “Sliced Bread,” which split various video resolutions into individual chunks. Previously, each resolution was lumped into a massive single block of data. Before Sliced Bread, users could toggle resolution, but the file itself was all-encompassing. Sliced Bread allowed YouTube to split each resolution into various slices that could be loaded at different times and thus speed up your download.
This technique gave the impression that, although video quality toggled independently at points, the streaming process was totally seamless and continuous.
While Sliced Bread seems to be a success — YouTube claims the technique has reduced rebuffering by 40 percent — the video site is working on a new process to help speed things up.
YouTube plans to reduce load times in three steps, which John Harding, team leader of YouTube’s engineering team, breaks down in the above video. However, here’s the abridged version:
YouTube’s first step involves parallel processing, a technique that allows the various steps required in playing a video to load simultaneously instead of one at a time. As it stands now, when you click on a video, the video’s page must load before the the backend code can begin working. Parallel processing would allow that backend code to load the moment the video page is requested.
The second step that YouTube is taking to reduce load speed deals with the site wasting less time as users jump between videos. When you watch one video, the video player and backend code have already loaded, yet when you click on a new video, all of that data must reload. YouTube knows this is a waste of resources, and they are working to fix it. This new technique will save the player and code once a video is requested and simply load the video data itself and stream instantaneously as you go from video to video.
The final phase of YouTube’s grand scheme relies, in large part, on users clicking on suggested videos. By determining what they believe users will click on next, YouTube plans to pre-load slices of suggested videos before you even click on them. This way, if you do actually click on them, there will be zero waiting time between clicks, as the video was being pre-loaded in the background.
While all of these new techniques would exponentially speed up load time, viewers will still have to put up with pre-roll ads. Gizmodo writes: “It’s also worth mentioning that the biggest gap between hitting play and watching you video—preroll ads—aren’t going away any time soon.”
According to Gizmodo, YouTube claimed these features could roll out any time between this Thursday and July 4th.
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