Why YouTube Suddenly Got Grainier

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Self-quarantining is no joke, not least because now we have to find endless ways to entertain ourselves while socially distancing inside. It's like a rainy day with no end in sight, which might sound great for all the homebodies out there — until you have no other choice about it. Many of us are turning to the internet to keep us busy, whether it's for work or for just passing the time. One of our most reliable outlets has a slightly different look to it now, though.

This week, if you're used to high-definition viewing you may have noticed that YouTube videos are a little smaller and rougher than usual. That's because YouTube has just implemented a global scale-back on video quality which has already been in place for a few weeks in Europe. In essence, to conserve online bandwidth, the company is degrading default video quality a little bit to ensure that the entire internet doesn't implode under the weight of all our boredom. Other streaming services, including Netflix, have considered doing the same.

It's a small sacrifice to prop up the larger system, which all of us should be intimately familiar with by this point in the pandemic. Though it's a minor move in the big picture, it adds up the more people participate. COVID-19 cases are still growing exponentially in the United States; the more we do for ourselves and each other, the more we do to blunt the spread of the disease and the load on hospitals and health care workers. Stay calm, stay inside, and keep washing your hands. It's a long game now, but it'll pay off.