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Wednesday, 20 February 2013 18:53

Save Time on YouTube with HTML5

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4,000,000,000! That is the amount of hours people spend watching videos on YouTube every month. That is so much, that it is already easier to write as 4×109 (a 4 with 9 zeros). In many cases watching some of the videos is a waste of time. Either because it's a video of someone opening the wrapper of a new iPhone or the 60-minute-documentary is on a level a 2nd-grader could understand. There is a way to make better use of our spare time: a (not so new) feature in the HTML5-player of YouTube. It allows you to see videos at higher speeds than normal (also lower). This article will show you how it's done.

First, I would like to show you some statistics. They are not new, but interesting anyway. Here are the two most relevant (in the scope of this article)

  • Over 800 million unique users visit YouTube each month (Note: unique users are not a measurement of actual people. If you delete your cookies every time you close the browser or restart your computer, you will be consideres as more than just one user. Marketing-wise this amazing number um uniques sound much more impressive. Youtube/google knows that most people will probably not think of "unique users" in web-metric ways)
  • Over 4 billion hours of video are watched each month on YouTube

Let's do some easy math. (skip the Note, if you know how calculating with scientific notation works, or if you don't bother)
Note: calculations using the scientific notation (aka Standard Form) are much easier to do and make it less likely to do typos with all those 0s. If you want to know more, please read the wikipedia article. Bear in mind, that these examples do not cover everything.

  • Multiplication: just add the exponents and multiply the coefficients -> 2×104 × 5×105 = 10×109 = 1×1010, because: 2×5 = 10 and 4+5=9 and as ten has one trailing 0 at the end, we can just add this 0 to the exponent as it tells you how many 0s there are behind the coefficient (or . Let's check if this example is correct: 20,000×500,000=10,000,000,000. Looks good, a 1 with ten 0s (or a 10 with nine 0s).
  • Division: divide the coefficients and subtract the exponents -> 6×106 / 3×104 = 2×102 , because 6 / 3 = 2 and 6 - 4 = 2. Let's see: 6,000,000 / 30,000 = 200. Perfect, a 2 with two 0s. Much easier, isn't it?
  • If you have non-integer coefficients things are a bit different: e.g. 2.54×106 = 2,540,000. Why is that? The exponent 6 tells us, that there are 6 digits following after the integer part of the coefficient (i.e. 2). A 2 with 6 zeros = 2,000,000. As we have to fit in the .54 somewhere, we just keep them where the are in the coefficient and replace the 0s with them like this: 2,540,000 (two million five hundred forty thousand)

Back to the topic you came here for:

((4×109h)×60min) / 8×108 unique users =
24×1010 min / 8×10unique users = 3×10minutes per unique user

This means, that every unique user watches 300 minutes of video per month on average. That is 10 minutes on every single day of the month. Imagine you could save about 33%-50% of that time!

Here is how it works.
YouTube has an open trial, free to join for everyone, to use their HTML5-video-player. As you may know, the de-facto standard at the moment is Flash. Unfortunately, this player is not free. It may be FOR FREE but it is still a product developed by Adobe and you have to agree to their terms & conditions if you want to use it. HTML5 can do many things too, that Flash can do. There are even tools (provided by Adobe and others) to convert content.

We first have to enable the HTML5 on YouTube: That's very easy - if you meet the requirements. Just go to and check if you actually meet them. If you do (3 green ticked boxes) click "Join the HTML5 Trial" at the bottom of the page.

From now on, YouTube videos will play without Flash, unless it's an ad-supported video. Unfortunately, there are lots of videos displaying either banners or Video-Ads (YouTube calls them "TrueView in-stream"). Even our YouTube Channel "ShortWorldTech" uses ads for most videos as it is a relatively easy way to earn something against the cost of running the site (I can assure you, we're not getting rich that way). Even if you are using a browser plug-in that blocks Ads (like Adblock Plus for Chrome or Firefox) it will still use Flash.

You can check if the video uses HTML5 by right-clicking the video. If it looks like this, you are lucky and you can use the amazing "Speed"-Feature. You will find it on the lower right-hand side of the video-menu (see next image), when you click the cog.

html5 settings
Here is one of our short tutorial videos to try this feature: (this is one of the examples where also 2.0x speed is still working well)

If the settings-menu looks like this, you are using the Flash-player.
flash with ad

Just click the 1.5x or even 2.0x button. Your videos will now play faster, yet without the change in pitch usually associated with playing things at higher-than-normal speeds. There will be some distortions. My experience showed, watching documentaries at 1.5x speed is good for understanding the content. Native english-speakers may also be able to watch it at twice the speed but that is REALLY fast. Note: It does take some time to get used to the higher video speed.

If you're learning another language you could give the 0.5x setting a try. Everyone will be speaking very slow. Although, there is a 0.25x setting, you will not be able to hear audio.

Again, some math on how much time you could save if you used the different settings every single time. I made a little table that has some typical YouTube-Video-lengths as examples.
Calculating the time is easy...
Watching at 2.0x (200%) means that you watch 2 seconds of actual video in just 1 second. 50% means half the speed. 1.5x speed is a bit counter-intuitive: For every 60s of actual video it takes you just 40s to watch. Why 40 s? Here is why:

60s / 1.5 = 40 s, which is about 66,66% (or two thirds) of the original time.

0.25x (25%) 0.5x (50%) 1.5x (150%) 2.0x (200%)
5 min (300 s) 00:20:00 00:10:00 00:03:20 00:02:30
15 min (900 s) 01:00:00 00:30:00 00:10:00 00:07:30
40 min (2400 s) 02:40:00  01:20:00 00:26:40 00:20:00
60 min (3600 s) 04:00:00 02:00:00 00:40:00 00:30:00
90 min (5400 s) seriously? 03:00:00 00:60:00  00:45:00

This article showed you, that you could save about one third of your time you spend on YouTube, or you could watch about 33% more videos.

If we come back to the statistics, which said every unique user would watch 300 minutes of video every month, this little trick/habit could save you about 100 minutes every month (assuming you are the perfectly average user and there were no ads in any video, etc.). If everyone followed this tutorial one of the most useless YouTube comments "I want (minutes of video) minutes of my life back." would be history (Although it would probably be "I want (minutes of video divided by Speed setting) minutes of my life back.". The bright side would be: those people spent 1/3 less time watching the unboxing of an iPhone 4s, "mistakingly" labelled as iPhone 5s, in 2013.

We hope this article helps you cope with the ever increasing demand for efficient time use. But, of course, spending time with loved ones and friends is not just about efficiency. Another use for this wonderful speed feature: You have friends that told you about this wonderful short film that is way too short? Just play it back at 50% and you have twice the time to enjoy it. Amazing new technologies!


Read 5441 times Last modified on Thursday, 21 February 2013 17:01


Sebastian studied Business Education and has a particularly strong interest in Serious Games and Gamification. His love for all things Tech, e.g. PCs, Internet, steadily grew since he played his first computer games, that came on a tape. Looking at things from all possible angles is equally important to him as learning something new every day.

You can try to pigeonhole him - it wouldn't work. There's always something unexpected waiting for you.

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