Peter Kafka

Recent Posts by Peter Kafka

Here’s How YouTube’s Offline Videos Will Work (Memo)

youtube380YouTube is getting ready to make an important change, by letting people watch the site’s videos even when they’re not connected to the Internet.

Google announced the move in a vague blog post late Tuesday night, and I gave you a little more detail about how it will work this yesterday: You’ll need to use a YouTube mobile app to watch the videos, which will contain ads. You’ll have up to 48 hours to watch the stuff you take offline.

Now here’s a bit more detail about Google’s plans, via a e-mail YouTube sent out to “partners” — YouTube uploaders it has a commercial relationship with.

Most of the new stuff here deals with the logistics of the online/offline transfer. It’s also worth noting that YouTube says this does not apply to the movies and TV shows it offers for rent and purchase.

And again, note that YouTube assumes that offline viewability will be the default state for its videos — if you don’t want your stuff watched this way, you need to tell them.

One other note: While YouTube doesn’t say anything here about music videos — perhaps YouTube’s single most popular genre — I would be surprised if the music industry has given YouTube the ability to let people download music clips for free. I’m reasonably sure that YouTube has the rights to offer those clips for offline play, but only via a subscription service. YouTube declined to discuss that one.

Here’s a truncated version of YouTube’s mass email:

Dear Partner,

We’re writing to let you know about a new functionality that is currently scheduled to launch in November that impacts your content. This functionality is part of ongoing updates to give users more opportunities to enjoy videos and channels on YouTube mobile. The functionality is launching with all partners enabled but if you wish, you can disable now. Below is more information on the functionality and directions for how to disable.

What’s happening
On the YouTube app, users will be able, through “add to device” functionality available on videos and playlists, to designate certain content that they can watch for a short period of time when an internet connection is unavailable. With this, if a user experiences a loss of connectivity, they will still be able to watch the videos that they’ve added to their device for a limited period of up to 48 hours. If the device is offline for more than 48 hours the content cannot be viewed offline until the device reconnects. Once connected, the offline window refreshes and the viewer is able to watch the content again.

How it works for viewers
From the watch page through the “add to device” functionality feature, viewers will be able to designate certain content that they can watch for a short period of time when they do not have connectivity. At the time when the user no longer has connectivity, they will be able to watch the videos and playlists they have added to their device by accessing the videos through an “on device” section of their guide.

How it works for partners: ads and viewcounts
Google in-stream ads will run in connection with the content, and views will be added to the total view count. Please note that other ad formats will not be supported, and, videos for rental or purchase will not be included in this functionality.

All content is enabled. But you can disable now
By default all of your content will be enabled for the functionality, but you can disable now before the functionality launches. You will be able to disable by: partner, and available before launch, by asset, video and country. When you disable at the content owner or partner level, we apply this policy across all your videos, regardless of whether they are enabled at the asset, video and country level. To ensure all your content is disabled, you should disable at the content owner or partner level.


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Just as the atom bomb was the weapon that was supposed to render war obsolete, the Internet seems like capitalism’s ultimate feat of self-destructive genius, an economic doomsday device rendering it impossible for anyone to ever make a profit off anything again. It’s especially hopeless for those whose work is easily digitized and accessed free of charge.

— Author Tim Kreider on not getting paid for one’s work