updated 03:00 pm EST, Mon March 3, 2008
Google's primary video site YouTube is quietly increasing the quality of its videos, viewers have found over the weekend. The Flash-based site has begun re-encoding the web versions of its videos when possible, increasing their resolution from 320x240 to 480x360. Audio quality has also improved to include stereo AAC audio versus the lower bitrate mono sound of before, users note. The improvement primarily applies to newly uploaded videos, which are automatically produced in both the regular and high-quality versions, but is also being applied to older videos. The extra quality currently remains optional and must be activated by adding a tag to the address of the improved videos.
Notably, the back catalog of clips remastered at the sharper quality has been selective, such as the skateboarding dog video used to promote the iPhone as well as other select clips, rather than converting videos by date or by popularity. Neither Google nor YouTube has commented on the increases, which are still believed to be in strictly internal testing and unready for widespread use.
YouTube has faced increasing motivation to increase the quality of its videos in recent months, with sites such as DailyMotion and Vimeo adding 720p HD video to their libraries for users with faster Internet connections and computers. Apple is also understood to have been a significant factor in past YouTube upgrades and is widely credited for pushing the website into using H.264 for its video format, which allows the Apple TV, iPhone, and iPod touch to play the raw video without needing a Flash plug-in or a web browser.