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💫 Summary
The view counter on YouTube freezes at 301 because it goes through a statistical verification process to eliminate counterfeit views and ensure accuracy of view counts. The code controlling the counter contains a less than or equal to sign, causing it to freeze at 301. Occasionally, a few extra views may sneak on if they are counted simultaneously.
✨ Highlights📊 Transcript
The number 301 is significant in YouTube views as it freezes for a period of time before continuing to count.
00:00
When a new popular video is uploaded, the view counter rises rapidly until it reaches 301 and then freezes.
The freeze lasts for about a day or half a day before the counter resumes counting to higher numbers.
YouTube freezes the view count at 301 to eliminate counterfeit views and ensure that views are legitimate and provide a good user experience.
YouTube freezes the view counter at 301 to verify and ensure that the views are legitimate.
02:28
Views are considered a currency and need to be verified once they exceed 300.
YouTube goes through a statistical verification process to prevent bots from adding fake views.
Misleading titles and thumbnails that result in short view durations are not counted as legitimate views.
The decision to freeze the view counter at 301 was made to draw a line between what is innocuous and what requires verification.
The code controlling the view counter freezes the count at 301 if the view count reaches 300.
04:56
The condition in the code checks if the view count is less than or equal to 300.
If the view count is at 300, it adds one more view, resulting in 301.
YouTube performs checks before updating the view count publicly, which takes half a day to a day.
YouTube views freeze at 301 because multiple views coming in simultaneously are allowed to join the count, resulting in a few extra views sneaking on.
07:22
Views are coming in from different locations around the world and are recorded in a central database.
If views come in at the same time, they are allowed to join the count if the total is less than or equal to 300.
The freeze at 301 can lead to situations where a video has more likes than views, as likes are not subjected to the same rigorous process.
The freeze can be seen as an annoyance, but it can also result in interesting situations and videos.
00:00
00:00BRADY HARAN: I want to deal with a number that must be the
00:02most requested so far on Numberphile, and that is 301.
00:08Now, for those of you who don't pay much attention to
00:10the YouTube view counters, you might wonder what the big deal
00:13is with 301, and let me tell you.
00:16When a new video is uploaded, and if it's quite a popular
00:19one, you'll quickly see the view counter rise and rise and
00:22rise, and then it will get to 301, and it will freeze.
00:27And it will stay on 301 for a day, maybe half a day, and
00:31then it will start counting to higher numbers as usual.
00:34Now, a lot of people have been very mystified by this, and
00:36have asked us to check it out.
00:37TED HAMILTON: I'm Ted Hamilton, I'm a product
00:39manager for YouTube Analytics.
00:41BRADY HARAN: So there you go.
00:42I've got in touch with the people who actually count the
00:45YouTube views.
00:46TED HAMILTON: That is correct.
00:47Well, we actually have the computers do it.
00:49We don't count them ourselves, but yes.
00:51BRADY HARAN: So before we get to this whole 301 malarkey,
00:55what is a view on YouTube?
00:57I've always wondered.
00:58is someone just pressing play counting as a view?
01:00TED HAMILTON: Well, that's actually a bit
01:01of a YouTube secret.
01:02A view should be a video playback that was requested by
01:07an actual user who got what they were intending to get and
01:11had a good user experience.
01:12We think of views as a currency, and therefore we
01:16have to make a significant effort to eliminate
01:20counterfeit views, if you will.
01:22BRADY HARAN: Now, I know that all sounds a bit mysterious,
01:24and we will come back to it later on in the video, but
01:26let's crack on with this 301 figure.
01:29And you're going to find out counterfeit views actually
01:31have a bit to do with it.
01:33But the next thing we need to realize is when you watch any
01:35video, like this one for example, you're probably not
01:38all watching it from the same server.
01:40It gets distributed all around the world.
01:43TED HAMILTON: So there is the original, which
01:45you will have uploaded.
01:46Or I guess by the time you are watching this,
01:48have already uploaded.
01:49Then this gets, what do you call it?
01:50Cached in different locations, so that when you make a
01:54request for a video, it doesn't need to travel all the
01:56way from London over to California and say OK, send me
02:01back all of these bytes way back here.
02:02BRADY HARAN: So with multiple copies of the video all around
02:05the world, counting the views starts to get a little bit
02:08more complicated.
02:10TED HAMILTON: Here's you at your computer
02:12watching the video.
02:13If you make a request to this server, this server is going
02:15to give you the video, right?
02:16And at the same time, this server is going to write a
02:19little message to a log.
02:21It's just one line in a log.
02:23Every once in awhile, we collect all of these logs.
02:25So we'll ship this thing in from central Europe, or
02:28whatever into the central log collection area, aggregate
02:31them all together, and then go through and count them up.
02:34BRADY HARAN: Well OK, that seems simple enough, but it
02:37doesn't explain why the view counter freezes.
02:40TED HAMILTON: Views, as mentioned, are a currency.
02:42When you have a video with a very small amount of views,
02:46then you don't need to be too careful about
02:50what that view was.
02:51However, once it gets to be above 300 and beyond, this
02:55currency we really need to verify and make sure that the
02:58number is what it purports to be.
03:01So this means that we have to go through a statistical
03:03verification process, and that statistical verification
03:06process actually takes some time.
03:08And thus we go from incrementing one by one to
03:12then saying, OK, now we're incrementing in batch, and all
03:16of these views that have been added on have been verified by
03:19YouTube to be real views.
03:22We are preventing things like bots to go in and add a bunch
03:27of views to a video.
03:28Or we are preventing something that may have perhaps misled
03:34someone into watching a video.
03:37Say you had a title that was completely misleading, and a
03:39thumbnail that was completely misleading, and people
03:42actually went on there and just viewed for a few seconds,
03:45and then left.
03:46If you see that enough times, it a fair enough indicator
03:48that something was wrong there, so that we might not
03:52authorize all of those to be legitimate views.
03:55BRADY HARAN: All right, then.
03:55They're verifying the numbers.
03:57They're checking everything.
03:58I guess we probably could have guessed that.
04:00But why 301?
04:03TED HAMILTON: I was not there when the decision was made,
04:05but at some point the decision was made that we need to draw
04:08a line between what is innocuous and the database can
04:12handle, and what is all of a sudden serious business.
04:16The proportion was calculated to be at about 300, that this
04:20is the portion that we need to take care of.
04:22But the formula that we use to arrive at 300, I don't know if
04:27anyone actually knows that.
04:28BRADY HARAN: Well, OK.
04:29They drew a line in the sand.
04:31It was kind of arbitrary.
04:32They wanted to differentiate between people just sharing
04:35their home movies and the videos that are more popular,
04:39the ones that are a bit more serious.
04:40The ones that need scrutiny.
04:42But that was 300.
04:44The view counter freezes at 301.
04:47What's going on here?
04:49Is there a reason?
04:50TED HAMILTON: Yeah, there is a reason.
04:51And the reason was the number 300 was chosen.
04:56And when someone's writing code, they need to put the
05:00logic in the code that says where you should stop, or
05:03where you should, if one condition is true,
05:05you go to the left.
05:06And the other condition is true, you go to the right.
05:08Now, this condition can be written like this.
05:11If the view count is less than 300, then go ahead and add one
05:20to the view count.
05:21Otherwise, go to x where x is our much more complicated view
05:30count pipeline.
05:30However, what actually got written was not this, but if
05:34view count is less than or equal to 300, then increment
05:39the view count.
05:39So what this means is if the view count is at 300, this
05:43says is the view count less than or equal to 300?
05:47Yes, it is.
05:48Let me add one.
05:48So then you end up at 301.
05:50BRADY HARAN: Let me recap what's going on here.
05:53The code which is controlling where this view counter
05:55freezes contains a less than or equal to sign.
06:00So that means when a new early view comes along, it's checked
06:03against the code.
06:05Say the overall view count on the database is 299.
06:10OK, then.
06:10We'll let another one on.
06:12Here comes another view.
06:14Now the view count is 300.
06:16That isn't less than 300, but it is equal to 300.
06:21So the code lets another view jump onto the total.
06:24Now we're at 301, and when another view comes along, it's
06:29not less than 300, but it's also not equal to 300 anymore,
06:33and the door is shut.
06:34There are going to be no more views added to the publicly
06:38visible count until YouTube have done their checks.
06:41And that will take half a day to a day.
06:43Then of course, all the extra views that have been counted
06:46in the interim all pile onto the total.
06:49Nothing's missed.
06:50At least that's what I'm told.
06:52TED HAMILTON: Yeah, so whoever wrote this code probably did
06:53not realize the magnitude of what they were doing.
06:56View counts have been around since the beginning of
06:58YouTube, and who was to know what YouTube would become.
07:03So yeah, that was actually a rather monumental second of
07:08time in San Bruno, California, when a coder decided to write
07:12that logic in.
07:13It is now one of the idiosyncrasies of YouTube.
07:16BRADY HARAN: Now, I can hear some of you screaming at your
07:18computer screens.
07:19The view count doesn't stop at 301.
07:22Sometimes it stops at 302, or 305, or 310.
07:28What's going on there?
07:30There's an explanation for that, too, and that comes back
07:33to how I was saying the videos are shared around servers all
07:37across the world.
07:38So here's what's going on there.
07:40Views are coming in from the logs at the different videos,
07:44the different places around the world.
07:45And they're coming to this central database.
07:48And we know the door's going to be shut at 301, we just
07:51explained that a minute ago.
07:53But what happens if views are coming in at the same time?
07:57Someone watched it in Africa at the exact same time someone
08:01watched in Europe.
08:02Now we've got multiple views coming in.
08:04Checking if they're allowed to join the count, yes they are.
08:08It's less than or equal to 300.
08:11So they all pile on at the same time.
08:14Now when a new view comes along, sorry,
08:17we're closed for business.
08:19But because of that simultaneous update, a few
08:22extra views were able to sneak on.
08:24TED HAMILTON: We get asked about it all the time.
08:28I wouldn't say that it causes angst, but it's certainly, I
08:31would classify it more as an annoyance.
08:33You can go and see a very popular video, and you look
08:36and you'll see that it has 2,000 likes and 300 views.
08:40That's a little bit interesting.
08:41The issue there is that we don't put the likes through
08:45the same rigor, same rigorous process.
08:48And likes are far fewer in magnitude, so our systems can
08:53handle them more easily.
08:55But the views do freeze, and it can result in some awkward
08:58situations.
08:59But that actually results in terrific videos like this, so.
09:03BRADY HARAN: I did speak to Ted for maybe 45, 50 minutes
09:06and recorded it all.
09:07I've got loads of footage, a lot more detail, including a
09:10bit more about what constitutes a view.
09:12And I know some of you will want to see it.
09:14I haven't had time to edit it all just yet, but stay tuned
09:17because I'll be uploading that to
09:19Numberphile in the near future.
09:20And for those of you who don't like these ones that are a bit
09:23more about computers and the internet, I'm sorry.
09:26Numberphile's always unpredictable, and I promise
09:28next time it might be something
09:30you enjoy a bit more.
09:31
09:36MATT PARKER: How many arrows do you want?
09:37So the next one, let's say we did 3 to the power of, to the
09:40power of, oh, arrow, arrow, arrow, or whatever you
09:43want to call this.
09:453.
09:46Will that--
09:47
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FAQs about This YouTube Video

1. Why does the view counter on YouTube freeze at 301?

The view counter on YouTube freezes at 301 because it goes through a statistical verification process to eliminate counterfeit views and ensure accuracy of view counts. This is done to maintain the authenticity of the view counts and prevent any fraudulent activities.

2. How does the view counter on YouTube ensure the accuracy of view counts?

The view counter on YouTube ensures the accuracy of view counts by going through a statistical verification process that eliminates counterfeit views. This process is designed to maintain the integrity and reliability of the view counts, providing users with trustworthy and accurate insights into the popularity of a video.

3. What causes the view counter on YouTube to freeze at 301?

The view counter on YouTube freezes at 301 due to the code controlling the counter containing a less than or equal to sign, causing it to freeze at 301. This mechanism is put in place to prevent rapid or artificial inflation of view counts, maintaining the credibility of the platform.

4. Why is it important for YouTube to eliminate counterfeit views?

It is important for YouTube to eliminate counterfeit views to maintain the credibility and reliability of the platform. By ensuring that the view counts are accurate and authentic, YouTube can provide content creators and viewers with trustworthy metrics that reflect the true popularity of videos.

5. How does YouTube's view counter handle simultaneous views?

Occasionally, a few extra views may sneak on YouTube's view counter if they are counted simultaneously. This is a natural occurrence due to the processing speed and may result in a slightly higher count than 301. However, the statistical verification process is in place to maintain the accuracy and integrity of view counts.

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