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YouTube joins Netflix in reducing video quality in Europe

The whole world is basically on quarantine right now. Whole cities are shut down as people are asked to stay home to flatten the COVID-19 infection curve. As a result of that people are turning to gaming and streaming for entertainment.

There has been so much strain on servers that Youtube has joined other streaming services to reduce its default streaming quality to standard definition.

YouTube is reducing the quality of videos it offers in Europe, as an increase in home usage strains the continent’s internet during the novel coronavirus outbreak. The story was first reported by Reuters “We are making a commitment to temporarily switch all traffic in the EU to standard definition by default,” the company said in a statement.

The decision was influenced by the strain put on the continent’s internet infrastructure not so much as youtube’s servers. The combined load of streaming, online gaming that has seen a sharp rise have all contributed to massive insufficiencies in internet provisions.

EU industry chief Thierry Breton, for this reason, called on streaming platforms to help reduce their load on the continent’s infrastructure by reducing their default offering quality for videos streamed.

Internet traffic is increasing as more people spend time at home in line with social-distancing guidelines during the pandemic. There are fears about the strain this could place on the internet’s infrastructure, and cause further disruption to remote workers and e-learning activities now that businesses and schools have been shuttered.

Netflix also announced a few days ago that it would reduce the bitrate of its streams for 30 days. It is also an attempt on Netflix’s part to lower its network traffic demand which should go down to about 25 percent. Video streaming is a major source of internet traffic, alongside game downloads, while remote-work technologies like webmail and video-conferencing are thought to place relatively less strain on networks.

These announcements are however giving a sense of lack in internet bandwidth in Europe and internet providers trying to reassure the public have stressed that their networks have enough headroom to handle the increased demand.

British telecoms provider BT recently put out a statement in which it said that while weekday daytime traffic has increased by between 35 and 60 percent, it is still half of average evening peak usage, and “nowhere near” its network’s full capacity. Vodafone and TalkTalk, which also provide services to UK households, gave similar assurances to BBC News despite also seeing increases in web traffic.

Microsoft’s Teams messaging software suffered outages as lots of people logged on across the U.S. and Europe. The company says it has addressed the issue.

Visits to news sites in South Korea and Italy, for example, went up as much as 60%. And people are spending more time playing online games.

A similar pattern is emerging in the U.S. Cloudflare says Internet traffic jumped 20% after President Trump declared the pandemic a national emergency. In hard-hit Seattle, Internet use was up 40% last week compared to January.

While people might have a hard time with some software, experts like Cloudflare’s Prince say the Internet can handle the extra load.

“The Internet was really designed from the beginning to respond to literally a nuclear emergency,” he said.