YouTube to throttle video quality globally for about a month

To minimize traffic strain on the internet, the site had already set the default image quality to standard def in the EU, UK and Switzerland.

Joan E. Solsman Former Senior Reporter
Joan E. Solsman was CNET's senior media reporter, covering the intersection of entertainment and technology. She's reported from locations spanning from Disneyland to Serbian refugee camps, and she previously wrote for Dow Jones Newswires and The Wall Street Journal. She bikes to get almost everywhere and has been doored only once.
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Joan E. Solsman

The YouTube logo on display in the lobby of YouTube's headquarters in San Bruno, Calif.

Seth Rosenblatt/CNET

YouTube is throttling video quality to standard definition for all videos you stream from its massive service for about a month, no matter where you are in the world, the Google-owned company said Tuesday. It's the latest measure aiming to minimize the strain on worldwide networks as people turn to the internet as a source of crucial information and diversion in the middle of the coronavirus pandemic.

Given the global nature of this crisis, YouTube will expand its decision to default video streaming to standard definition globally starting Tuesday, YouTube said in a statement. The measure will last about 30 days. The service had already put that rule into effect last week in the European Union, as well as in the UK and Switzerland. 

The worldwide video-quality change will roll out gradually starting Tuesday over a few days. YouTube, which has 2 billion monthly users, said peaks of demand aren't much different, but it is seeing changes in usages patterns from more people at home. People are expanding demand across additional hours and causing lower usage peaks, the company said. 

The coronavirus, which causes the respiratory disease known as COVID-19, has spread rapidly around the world into a pandemic. Cities, states and countries have mandated quarantines, health care systems are struggling and entire industries have shut down. 

Watch this: Pandemic: Here's what's changed about the coronavirus

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Originally published March 24, 7:59 a.m. PT.
Correction, 10:06 a.m.:
 YouTube began lowering video quality of streams last week in the EU, the UK and Switzerland.