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How does Netflix stream movies in high quality smoothly while YouTube can’t even stream a minute long video without buffering?

by on December 4, 2013

youtube-VS-NetflixYouTube has a feature called “Dash Playback” that it hasn’t really nailed down yet. its a good concept but not very good in practice as most people have figured out. the reason for this is Dash takes advantage of a process called JIT or Just In Time to stream. it buffers 5-10 seconds of video at a time then stops. they developed this for two reasons, one to put a Governor on downloads during peak hours and to accommodate users with spotty internet connections.

Dash is supposed to resume once the end of the buffer is reaches but as we all know that’s not reliable sometimes for a plethora of reasons, most common ones are errors in a browser (easily solved by restarting a few times in a blue moon) or misconfiguration of browsers blocking the feature and the unlikely scenario of ISPs blocking the cache servers that the player looks for.

in contrast to Dash there is linear streaming which downloads a clip from start to finish. Every file you get on the internet from HTML to an FLV “streamed” to you from YouTube is downloaded in some way. you are not really getting tiny bits, you are getting the whole file, they just tend to be protected in temp directories now regardless of how they are downloaded.

linear streaming was a problem in the beginning when YouTube didn’t have a bunch of cache servers around the world. videos would stop buffering on bad internet connections forcing users to refresh the page and hope it buffered past a problem point. now that YouTube has gotten much bigger its not really a big worry unless you have one of those crappy connections.

The problem however is that Dash is enabled by default, there is no easy way to disable it without digging threw a few obscure Google back pages and even then its kind of cryptic as to what you are actually agreeing to.

We have found a plugin called “YouTube Center” for FireFox and Chrome that adds options to YouTube that will juggle the various setting for you including disabling Dash or defaulting player type and resolution to something other than the Flash version.

As for why Netflix can provide a better experience over YouTube, Youtube is a free service and limited by the resources Google throws at them. they have done a good job of keeping the community afloat (sans g+ integration) but are trying to keep up with user volumes, content rights and technology on a very public stage.

Netflix on the other hand exists in a different realm with less demanding requirements to a certain point. most of their content is licensed and limited meaning they don’t have to have as much resources for new content on a regular basis. they can create as many cache servers as they need to support a more consistent viewing experience without making compromises to quality or users because most of those features have been built in from the start.

Tl;Dr YouTube has Dash, dash is bad a little broken.

Netflix has less stuff to host and can have more servers to pick up the slack when the internet demands it. They both have features to preserve the viewing experience but it depends on your network or theirs.

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