How Does YouTube Count Views?

How Does YouTube Count Views

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.

And according to a recent study, video marketing is on the rise in 2011 with 77 percent of marketers planning to increase overall video marketing efforts, with networks like YouTube leading the way in providing low-cost distribution channels. It's obvious why SMBs are flocking to YouTube, and just as obvious that the company must allocate some serious resources to keeping view counts free from fraud.

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.

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This article was originally posted August 2010 and has since been updated.

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Comments

  1. Funkynorm said:

    Does it matter how you view the video as to whether it is counted or not? for example if you view the video on your computer then it would be counted, but if you watch it via a smart phone or iPad or PS3 these views are not counted? I don’t know if this is true but I have heard that this is the case and I haven’t come across anyone that can confirm this!

  2. ETHAN said:

    Is this why there are always 305 ish views on a new viral or otherwise extremely popular video?

  3. JorgeM said:

    It seems that their counter doesnt report views in real time, at least not for me. sometimes, i have noticed video counts not increasing, then all of the suddent, the count drastically changes. I wonder how many legitimate views are not being counted…

  4. suzy said:

    Youtube video count is inaccurate! I’m actually following the count along with family and friends… there are clearly discrepancies. Just curious, does youtube promote its own videos?

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  6. Jack said:

    Youtube views count is always different.i don’t know exactly how they count the views for video.There are so many sites in the web, which can easily increase the YouTube views in one day.

  7. Portobellotent said:

    I watch YouTube on ipad and have discovered that my VIEWS are not counted, ( even months later!)
    “LIKES” are counted !
    Why is this?
    Any reason ?
    Please advise
    Seb

  8. Frenchy98 said:

    I have a question. If I put the same video 100 times on a playlist and i let the playlist on repeat, will the views count?
    Let me know as soon as possible.

  9. I don’t think it’s possible to have the same video twice in the same playlist. However, I do think views are counted when playing in a playlist so you should select 2 or 3 vids, put them in a playlist and let the playlist running. :)

  10. Zach said:

    My guess is that YT records your IP address only allows 1 count per user – forever. So even if you go in YT everyday & watch the same video over & over, it won’t count it still only counts the very first time you watched it. The only way around it is if you uploaded it or go to a different pc (library, friend’s, etc.)

  11. basebat said:

    I have over 1000 views for one of my music playlists. I have it playing a lot when I’m on the computer. I wonder if it’s just me or are other people adding to the view count.

  12. morris branch said:

    Its important now because YouTube views are counted towards the music charts Billboard hot 100 and corresponding charts..sales and airplay and you tube views are figured into chart positioning..

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