YouTube has been one of the most successful websites in the history of the internet. When Google bought them in 2006 for $1.65bn they upgraded their server system to cope with huge amounts of traffic. Recently however Google have been investing more money into improving the experience for Youtube visitors.
The upgrades have improved the quality, streaming bandwidth and other efficiencies. In a recent interview Andy Berkheimer, engineering managing at Youtube spoke to the Financial Times and said recent changes were ‘full body swap outs’ in technology. He didn’t give specific details however.
Another Youtube employee, software engineer Rushabh Dosh said “It’s like changing an airplane’s engines while the airplane is in flight.” indicating that people should not have experienced any downtime.
Berkheimer clearly felt the change was due thanks to the increase in High Definition content. He added “One of the things we see [changing] is the amount of content coming in that is in HD quality. It’s a feedback cycle – as soon as we started delivering in HD, a lot more people started wanting to give us HD content.”
Youtube statistics really are incredible. On average 72 hours of video is uploaded to Youtube every minute. Christmas creates a huge spike for Youtube as people are getting new cameras and equipment.
How do Google deal with it? Better processors? faster drives? Not really. Dosh says “What we do to make it better is what Google does best – throw lots and lots of machines at it. It’s a truly stunning number of machines, scattered all over the world.”
When a user uploads a video file, the transcoding is not handled by a single machine. Youtube computers take the file, chop it into pieces and then send them all to different clusters of machines. The pieces are then regathered to create the single video to view online. Obviously with such a complex system, comes a challenge. Making sure nothing goes wrong with the slicing and dicing and reassembly of video.
Berkheimer says “We are moving beyond our comfort zone and saying for a lot of that [improvement], we need to be mobile first.”
Around 25 percent of Youtube video views are handled by mobile devices, which adds further complications. Shifting bandwidth speeds. Mobile devices can often drop their bandwidth depending on exact location.
Berkheimer added that they are trying to deal with this also “That is one of the key things that makes a user go away quicker than anything else. When that happens we need to seamlessly adjust [the stream] rather than stall.”
According to Berkheimer the new streaming system has brought a 20 percent reduction in buffering, one of the biggest problems viewing some Youtube videos.
Kitguru says: Google are constantly trying to improve Youtube services and we would be interested to hear from readers if their viewing experience has improved in recent months.