Ever wonder how views are calculated on YouTube?
We've all heard YouTube's dazzling numbers: Over 13 million hours of footage was uploaded in 2010; more video is uploaded every 60 days than the three major US television networks produced in the previous 60 years; and YouTube receives the equivalent of 115,000 full-length feature films in uploads every year.
All this is wonderful for fans of funny cat videos, as well as Google shareholders.
However, there are also a few eye-popping stats for the savvy SMB interested in integrating social media platforms into their marketing mix but may be constrained by a tight budget. For example, more than 2 billion video views per week are monetized; the total number of advertisers using YouTube has increased 10-fold; and YouTube mobile gets over 100 million views a day.
Getting an accurate count
So, it should be no surprise YouTube tightened its video view calculating process. Way back in the early days of YouTube (circa 2005), counting views was a more casual affair. The entrepreneurs (Steve Chen, Chad Hurley and Jawed Karim) that brought us into a world of 24/7 Funniest Home Videos simply registered how many times a page was loaded.
Under these conditions, any teenager looking to bump up the stats on his Skywalker battle reenactment video, simply could press a browser's refresh button over and over again to increase view count.
Meet the new boss
However, it didn’t take long for YouTube to get wise to this game and they implemented some changes. As the company moved to monetize videos, the importance of video view counts increased significantly.
Now, the process is done in the manner we have come to expect from a Google-owned company -- all algorithms and security systems. There is no more gaming the view count game.
Or at least it is much harder.
Despite the combined technical prowess of YouTube and Google, it is still possible to inflate views artificially. The most common attempts occur through spam bots/malware, but can also happen by the video’s uploader.
What does YouTube do to address this?
While YouTube is generally tightlipped about its security measures - they will only say a view is counted whenever someone watches a video on YouTube and claim they "do not get more specific than this to avoid attempts at artificially inflating view counts" – the company is not shy about discussing the technology in more obscure terms.
YouTube has sophisticated technology to count views consistently. If this technology detects that there has been an attempt to inflate a video’s view count artificially, that video’s view count will be frozen, according to YouTube guidelines. During this time the video is still available and the all-important view count will continue, only it will not appear until the video and the issue has been adjudicated.
YouTube explains why they have employed these measures:
We’ve implemented this type of technology and view count analysis in order to prevent abuse of the system. Video views are at the heart of the YouTube community and we want to ensure that we’re counting only valid views (and not artificial attempts to game the system). Ultimately, consistent view counts benefit everyone in the community, from the viewers to the uploaders.
You may also enjoy a post by our own Alhan Keser about how to be successful on YouTube.
This article was originally posted August 2010 and has since been updated.