However, YouTube users can override the setting — and still watch content in HD formats if available. But by delivering lower bit rates with SD as the default, YouTube and parent Google are hoping to help reduce congestion on networks with the rise in bandwidth usage as COVID-19 keeps millions of people at home.
Google announced the move in an update Tuesday morning. Last week, YouTube switched to streaming all videos in SD in the European Union, as well as the U.K. and and Switzerland. Now it’s making SD the default video quality everywhere.
“Given the global nature of this crisis, we are expanding that change [to default to SD video] globally starting today,” the internet giant said. “This update is slowly rolling out, and users can manually adjust the video quality.”
In addition to YouTube, streaming-video services Netflix, Amazon, Disney Plus and Apple have also moved to reduce bandwidth utilization in the EU. But of those, so far YouTube is the only one to take its video throttling worldwide.
“We continue to work closely with governments and network operators around the globe to do our part to minimize stress on the system during this unprecedented situation,” Google said in a statement to Bloomberg, which first reported YouTube’s move to stream SD by default.
Among other steps Google and YouTube are taking to provide information and support during the COVID-19 pandemic, they’ve encouraging YouTube creators to “spread the word to stop the spread.”
“If you choose to use YouTube to share content urging people to #StayHome, consider videos that are helpful, fun and informational and tag #StayHome and ___ #WithMe (e.g. #StayHome and cook #WithMe),” Google said in message to creators last week.