Why are certain YouTube videos consistently slow?
September 5, 2008 8:38 PM   Subscribe

Some YouTube videos download *painfully* slow (5-12kb/s) while others will stream just fine near 200kb/s. I've had friends try and watch the videos that are trouble for me, and they work for them. Can anybody else confirm these problems? Is there a certain YouTube server that Verizon is throttling in Philadelphia, or is it just a routing problem?

So, first let's get this out of the way: I'm rewatching some old Night Court episodes. Not sure why. Got the theme song stuck in my head, and here we are. Here is a slow video, and Here is a fast one, both posted by the same user. Just for good measure, another slow one.

I don't think it is server load, as these specific videos have been consistently slow over the past week. I'm stumped. Any ideas, intertubes?
posted by excitementMD to Computers & Internet (6 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Services like YouTube have a pretty complicated content delivery network. These typically replicate content to be closer to the users in the nodes that are demanding it.

If you're one of the first in your "area" to be requesting a video, and it's not in cache near your node, up the stream it goes as it finds some place to deliver it to. If it's not in memory and you actually have to do a read from disk, this will take even longer for you.

Load balancing schemes rely on several metrics to help distribute the content appropriately and most efficiently. Making a determination to move content into a node's memory-based cache can be some fancy mojo, based, among other things, on the frequency of requests and the sheer volume in your area.

BitGravity offers "instant streaming broadband" by basically replicating EVERYthing. Limelight Networks handled the Olympics this year much the same way—you were never more than one hop away from the content you were utilizing because the content was hosting OFF the internet; it was actual on a "private" content distribution system with deals struck with ISPs, such that they would receive the necessary bursts of content to ensure distributed, fast access for everyone, instead of singular points of failure. With canned content, (even sprawlingly so at 2,000+ hours), this is much more doable than simply moving and duplicating EVERYTHING ever uploaded on YouTube.

Ideally, a video will get faster for you if you pull it up enough, but it's my guess that you alone can't shift the threshold. If something hits Digg, though, which provides a pretty universal traffic spike, expect that the network responds in kind and makes sure it's available quickly, in memory, wherever.
posted by disillusioned at 8:51 PM on September 5, 2008

Oddly, when I had similar problems with YouTube, I was able to fix them by updating my laptop's WiFi drivers. Can't hurt.
posted by JDHarper at 8:53 PM on September 5, 2008 [1 favorite]

Do they stop at 2 seconds or so? I found the fix for that was to install the beta of flashplayer 10. I'd also clear out the cache, delete any cookies, disable all extensions, etc.
posted by damn dirty ape at 10:39 PM on September 5, 2008

I nearly posted the same thing myself earlier. One thing I did notice was that all the videos which downloaded slowly seemed to be served by *.nyc.youtube.com (as shown in the Firefox status bar), and that seems to be the common factor in the two you list here as well.

I don't have a solution, though, sorry. I just assumed the YouTube CDN was hosed and moved on.
posted by rjt at 1:31 AM on September 6, 2008

I also get woefully slow service from .nyc...
posted by sycophant at 3:42 AM on September 7, 2008

I've had this problem for months. The vast majority of videos play fine, but for those that freeze up within seconds of starting, the status bar indicates the content is being pulled from *.nyc.youtube.com. For what it's worth, I'm using Verizon FIOS and live on the west coast.
posted by rmannion at 2:50 AM on October 16, 2008

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