How Does YouTube Compress Videos? Why Does YouTube Compress Videos

Have you ever noticed that when you upload your video to your Youtube channel, the video’s size changes? And there may possibly be a slight difference between the video you started with and the one now on Youtube? This is due to what happens to your uploaded video during Youtube’s video compression process.  

YouTube uses a unique video compression mechanism using ABR streaming to provide a clean playback of your video to viewers. It compresses videos with an ABR algorithm to reduce the transfer size of the video on YouTube’s server to your computer, tablet, or mobile device. 

Now that you know Youtube compresses its users’ uploaded videos, let’s get down to how and why they do it. You’ll learn more about Youtube’s unique compression algorithm, what happens during the process, and why compression is important for the platform. Are you ready? 

How Does YouTube Compress Videos?

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What do you typically use Youtube for? Did you click on a link that led you to a video of a short clip? Or are you watching a lengthy tutorial to learn how to perform a task? 

No matter what you’re watching on Youtube, every video uploaded was compressed and formatted for the platform. Youtube has a special compression method.

To compress a video, Youtube uses a process called ABR Streaming. ABR stands for Adaptive Bitrate. ABR streaming technology makes it possible to take a video file and compact it into a smaller file without losing video or audio quality. 

ABR streaming is now used by many prominent multimedia companies to provide the best streaming experience for its users as it yields a fast download rate when playing high-quality video content. Some of these companies include Microsoft, Apple, and Adobe.  

ABR streaming on Youtube has multiple quality levels it can function at, from as low as 144p and 360p up to 1080p HD. Having these different tiers makes sure that viewers with lower bandwidth can still watch Youtube videos but at a lower quality that fits their available bandwidth. 

Another great thing about YouTube’s player is that it automatically adjusts the video quality to match temporary changes in bandwidth. So, if your internet speed drops all of a sudden, the video quality will degrade, and it will go back up as soon as your speed improves. This is done to avoid interrupting the video. 

When playing a video, ABR streaming helps to figure out which quality level video to play based on the user and their connection.  

Youtube Compression Types

Compressing a video file you upload to YouTube involves a few steps. Here’s a video explaining how YouTube compression works:

When compressing a video, two types of compression occur:

  • Audio signal compression. This will increase audio levels in your content, so even a quiet video will still have sound. You may even hear a little feedback during the silent parts of a video. This will enable a video to have a more compact size and still retain a high-quality audio level. 
  • File Conversion Compression. Video files are converted to a smaller size when going through the compression process on Youtube. This doesn’t lessen the video quality; it just compacts it, making it a more accessible size to work with. With high-resolution videos that have a higher FPS rate, you will have a higher file size. 

Why YouTube Compress Videos

Now that you have the answer to how videos are compressed, it’s time to look at the reasoning behind why Youtube videos are compressed. 

Save Space and Bandwidth 

If you have a 1GB video that you upload on Youtube, and 100 people watch your video, that’s 100 gigabytes of content being shared! 

Since Youtube doesn’t have that kind of capacity on their server, they need to decrease the size of the video to something typically under 100 or 200 MB. 

Moreover, transferring that much data over any network will cause heavy congestion. At the scale YouTube is working, it wouldn’t be surprising to see half the world’s traffic being consumed by YouTube viewers if it weren’t for their compression technologies. 

Reduce Storage and Transmission Costs 

Hosting content on a server can become costly, especially when you’re a server hosting over 30,000 hours of content uploaded every hour, you’ll want to save space wherever you can.  

As mentioned earlier, with ABR streaming helping to choose the best quality level for your content, some newer devices, such as Android products, have a default setting for videos to play at a lower bandwidth from the start.

If the user wants to watch content with a higher quality, they will have to make the setting manually.  

The Results of a Compressed YouTube Video

YouTubers have been angered, annoyed, and curious about the Youtube compression method for years. 

Below is a video of a YouTuber who tried an experiment to re-upload their video over and over to Youtube: 

The YouTuber from the video shows an example of what happens during compression and proves that slight changes can become huge changes over time.

As the video is uploaded multiple times, you will see the audio begins to unsync with the video, and the video becomes more and more pixelated until the content is no longer visible, except for a shapeless mass on the screen. 

While you would never really have a reason to re-upload a video that many times to Youtube, it is an interesting experiment to see what can happen with video compression algorithms on multimedia platforms.


Now that you know how Youtube videos are compressed through ABR streaming, and why it’s important for Youtube to compress videos to create smaller, compact files that will fit better on their server and yours.

You also witnessed what can happen if you keep uploading a video over and over, which makes a good example to prove that the slight contrast between an uploaded video and the original can grow to a significant difference over time. 

So, next time you upload a video to Youtube, see if you can spot the differences between the original and the compressed versions. You might not be able to find one! 

My Current Video Editing Setup and Favorite Products

Apple MacBook Air M1 512gb Ram (Waiting for the new 16in Pro)

LG 27MK400H-B Full HD Monitor with FreeSync 27″  (I literally have 4 of these 😅 )

Razer Holiday Bundle Cynosa Chroma Gaming Keyboard, Abyssus Gaming Mouse, Goliathus Chroma Mousepad

KTRIO Large Gaming Mouse Pad with Stitched Edges

Panasonic LUMIX G7 Digital Camera – Great Entry Camera for Shooting and Streaming

Neewer Ring Light Kit — A Must Have

Emart Green Screen Backdrop with Stand Kit – Affordable and Lots of Uses!

Elgato Stream Deck Mini – I only need the 6 keys


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