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Is your favourite cat video buffering? YouTube’s shifting blame to your ISP

You know the feeling: you curl up to watch a nice video on YouTube, and you’re met with that annoying swirling circle. Chances are, in between griping about how this is 2014 and you should be able to watch HD video without buffering (darn it), you’re probably feeling some not-so-pleasant feelings towards YouTube. But it may not be YouTube’s fault.

In a bid to explain why your videos take so long to load, Google has introduced a new pop up which appears underneath the player, allowing you to find out why you’re having to wait for the clip to buffer. The blue banner, which currently shows on slow-loading videos in the US, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand, allows users to click through to YouTube’s recently launched video quality report page and see if their internet service provider (ISP) is really the one to blame.

If you click on the pop up (which was spotted by Quartz), you can generate a report which will give you a summary of your ISP’s performance in your area and whether you should stick to standard definition for the time being. It even allows you to compare the streaming quality of other suppliers in your area, in case your preference for HD streaming is leading you to consider making a switch.

Quartz YouTube performace

The banner, and the video quality report site, try to explain how your videos get to you in an easy-to-understand way. They highlight the fact that even if YouTube plays its part, a bottleneck on your ISP’s side can affect your experience. If they don’t have the capacity to receive the data from YouTube, you could spend your time watching those swirling dots.

The move comes at a time where there are heavy debates around the issue of net neutrality, which centres on the idea that internet access should not be blocked or slowed. But while companies like Google and Netflix are pushing for ISPs to ensure their content reaches consumers, service providers want to charge them for transmitting those data-heavy files. It seems Google is pretty clear on where it stands in that debate.

Screenshot: Quartz

Author | Lauren Granger

Lauren Granger
While studying towards her Bachelor of Journalism degree at Rhodes University, Lauren gave into her fascination with everything digital. As she was more interested in creeping tech sites and Twitter than she was in picking up one of those printed things called 'newspapers', she decided to specialise in... More

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