How does YouTube video view count work?

There is some confusion out there about how youTube counts video views. How do I know this? Well, at least I was confused. So here are a few things I figured out when learning about it.

YouTube Video View Count

YouTube counts videos as they are started. In as little as 5 seconds (i.e., if you only watch the first 5 seconds of a video), your video count is incremented. It could be less. I tested 5 and it worked. That’s enough for me. This is for watching videos ON YouTube.

Also from my research, I’ve come across a little hitch in the incrementing logic that says somewhere around 300 views (some people say at 308 views), YouTube freezes your view count while it starts sniffing around for view fraud. Obviously, since video view count is such a huge part of the ranking algorithm on YouTube, they are sensitive to people inflating their views. This can happen in a number of ways, but they basically want to comb through cookies and IP addresses to make sure that the video views up to and past this point are valid. I guess it’s possible 308 is some sort of a point of inflection that determines whether a video is actually popular, according to their math.

What about embedded videos?

This is where it starts getting a little wonky. From what I’ve been able to find (there isn’t much official documentation on this in their help section, unless I’m a dummy, which is possible), YouTube will increment the view count if you embed their own player and do NOT have autoplay enabled. So, what about the API, if you create your own player? It sounds like the view count on youtube.com will not be incremented if you choose to use your own (or a widget) player. I’ll have to do some testing to validate this, but it makes sense since you have a lot of control over video behavior in your own player and could just run video views to the moon.

If you have your player set to autoplay, this is also a case where video views will NOT be incremented. The reason for this is pretty obvious. People used to post their videos all over blogs, myspace, and wherever else they could to get as many views as possible. If the video begins playing on page load, rather than via user input, the more pageviews you get, the more plays you get, irrespective of whether people actually wanted to watch your cat jump into a wall. And this unfairly played to the advantage of major sites and media outlets, where it was easy for them to generate tens of thousands of pageviews in a day or a week.

So to recap:

YouTube video count WILL increment when:

  1. You watch a video on youtube.com, as long as you don’t reload the video a bazillion times (particularly as it approaches 308 views).
  2. You watch an embedded video (using YouTube’s own HTML5 or Flash player) on another domain that requires you to hit play.

YouTube will NOT increment video count when:

  1. You watch an embedded video in a player that has autoplay enabled (video begins playing immediately on page load).
  2. You watch a video that is loaded through a proprietary player via the YouTube API.

Hope this helps someone out there!


2 Trackbacks

  1. By Printed By Erik on April 2, 2011 at 3:26 pm

    How does YouTube video view count work?…

    I consider myself late to the YouTube game and all its quirks. I also consider myself a self-made genius for figuring out how to post HD videos and that is saying a lot. I currently maintain two different channels, one for personal and home videos and …

  2. By Currents Events | Living History on March 20, 2012 at 10:59 pm

    [...] To Grow OrchidsItsBizkit – 50 Cent Returns to ABC’s “The View” (Video)How does YouTube video view count workHow does YouTube video view count workItsBizkit – 50 Cent Returns to [...]

16 Comments

  1. DAVE

    tHANKS – GOOD EXPLANATION!!

    Posted March 25, 2011 at 2:34 pm | Permalink
  2. Tested this on Facebook. If you play your video within the facebook, meaning, you’re just gonna use FB plugin, it will not count. So usually, i post just the link. ><

    Posted May 3, 2011 at 12:33 am | Permalink
  3. david

    Wow, I have always wondered how the view counts work.
    Thanks for useful information, it really helped me.
    Great work!

    Posted November 14, 2011 at 5:19 pm | Permalink
  4. Ron

    If I wasn’t signed into my Youtube account and I watched a video, would that count as a view?

    Posted January 4, 2012 at 8:50 pm | Permalink
  5. Thanks for the clafication. Great job figuring this out.

    Posted March 7, 2012 at 5:16 pm | Permalink
  6. Thea

    It doesn’t work on blogs… I’ve tried and the autoplay is of, but still no morw views.. And i know people have watch because they leaved plenty of comments.. So why doesn’t it get more views ?

    Posted May 12, 2012 at 3:04 pm | Permalink
  7. Aca

    The reason why the number of views increase is because YouTube post the exact number of views every 6 or 8 hours.

    Posted June 11, 2012 at 11:15 am | Permalink
  8. I found this very helpful! It is hard to find this information on You Tube itself! I am going to share this info with my website viewers!!!

    Thank you so much!!

    Posted June 24, 2012 at 10:28 pm | Permalink
  9. Emily Fatima

    thanks for the information! :) but I’m wondering, if the same account watches the same youtube video twice, does it count as one or two views?

    Posted August 8, 2012 at 12:43 pm | Permalink
  10. adam

    Would you minding explaining your research methods?

    Posted August 9, 2012 at 1:14 pm | Permalink
  11. Tahovi

    @Emily Fatima: Hi fatima, if the same account watches the same youtube video twice, it counts as two views :) I know this because I’ve tried clicking into a video I’ve set as “private” (i.e. no one knows about it), yet simply because I’ve clicked into it, the view count of that video increases :)

    Posted October 5, 2012 at 12:28 am | Permalink
  12. Hello! This is kind of off topic but I need some guidance from an
    established blog. Is it difficult to set up your
    own blog? I’m not very techincal but I can figure things out pretty fast. I’m thinking about
    setting up my own but I’m not sure where to start. Do you have any ideas or suggestions? Appreciate it

    Posted January 21, 2013 at 6:01 am | Permalink
  13. Vivek Lohani

    Sound interesting but don’t think this works I tried playing this video-
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XwKQsNCw8l4
    4-5 times whithin 15min to show to my friends however the views did not increase!

    Also one more point it shows lesser number of views while you are viewing the details in results thrown by you tube search but on clicking the video the actual no. of views are more!

    Hence either It’s all just theoretical analysis(IM) or there is some bug in you tube

    Posted January 24, 2013 at 10:43 am | Permalink
  14. Pi

    When I check on my videos, its says like 50 views.But when I check my Youtube anylatics, it says 20. I don’t know why. SOMEONE RESPOND.

    Posted February 3, 2013 at 5:50 pm | Permalink
  15. @Vivek Lohani: Doesn’t it know the IP you’re viewing from and stop the counting after one view?

    Posted February 10, 2013 at 12:46 pm | Permalink
  16. She

    It sure did help me.

    Posted March 5, 2013 at 8:37 am | Permalink