YouTube switches to SD quality by default globally in response to COVID-19

YouTube Axon 10 Pro
YouTube Axon 10 Pro (Image credit: Jason England / Android Central)

What you need to know

  • YouTube has begun to limit videos to 480p standard definition globally by default to help with the strain on the network due to the coronavirus.
  • Last week it began limiting the streaming quality in several countries in Europe to help prevent from overwhelming the network.
  • Users will still be able to watch in high definition by selecting the option from the settings.

The coronavirus pandemic has had far-reaching implications affecting companies worldwide. It has forced many of us to shelter in place and required us to work from home if possible. However, when we're not working, we've turned to streaming services to fill the rest of the hours in the day. Unfortunately, all of that streaming is taking a toll on the backbone of the internet.

Last week, EU Commissioner Thiery Breton talked with Netflix about lowering the quality of streams to standard definition, as well as asking viewers to do the same. On March 19, 2020, Netflix took Breton's advice lowering the streaming bitrate across Europe for 30 days. Soon after, YouTube followed along, as did several other streaming services.

Today, YouTube announced it would be expanding this policy globally and limiting YouTube videos to SD by default.

Last week, we temporarily defaulted all videos on YouTube to standard definition in the European Union (EU), United Kingdom (UK), and Switzerland (CH). Given the global nature of this crisis, we are expanding that change globally starting today. This update is slowly rolling out, and users can manually adjust the video quality.

The good news is, you can still stream in high definition if you want. However, it will require you to manually switch to HD. As the world continues to adjust to the new normal during the COVID-19 outbreak, it is possible we could see other streaming services follow suit in the US or globally. The chief content officer at Netflix has also stated, it may slow down streams around the world depending on requests from local authorities.

Jason England