I have three New Years Resolutions for 2020, and three habits from 2019 I am not planning to change. This note is the second of three resolutions.
Have you ever visited YouTube in a new browser without logging into Google first? If you have, you probably watched a lot of stupid videos on YouTube.
The problem is the algorithm. YouTube’s algorithm works by showing you videos you are likely to watch. The algorithm does this by remembering you, which videos you watch, and which videos you skip. Google makes money each time you watch a YouTube video with an embedded ad. The more videos you watch the more money Google makes.
But what if the algorithm can’t remember you or the kind of videos you like to watch? What if you don’t have a Google account and don’t want one? What will YouTube show you then?
In an effort to keep you watching videos with embedded ads, the algorithm defaults to showing you videos designed to steal your attention. Even if those videos are some of the stupidest content on YouTube. I watched a lot of stupid videos on YouTube in 2019.
For most people watching the occasional stupid video isn’t that big of a problem because people tell Google who they are and the algorithm shows them what they want to watch. They do this by letting the Google track their browsers or by logging into Google services. But I browse the web with tracking protection turned on and never log into Google. The algorithm remembers nothing about me, and as a result I am always shown stupid videos.
Watching Less Stupid
In 2020 I am watching less stupid on YouTube by skipping the algorithm. Instead of letting the YouTube decide which videos it wants to show me, I am watching only the videos I want to see by subscribing to my favorite content creators via RSS.
- First I find a YouTube channel I want to watch.
- View its source code in my browser
- Search for “channelid”
- And append the Channel ID to the end of this URL
The combined URL + Channel ID is the Feed URL of that YouTube channel, and can be added to my feed reader. For instance the Feed URL for the 512 Pixels YouTube channel is:
YouTube used to make its videos more accessible to visitors by publishing the channel RSS feeds, but ever since the algorithm took over YouTube has obfuscated RSS in an effort to control content delivery and drive advertisement revenue. Don’t be a victim to the algorithm in 2020, subscribe to RSS feeds on YouTube and support the Open Web.