YouTube Lets Users Download Videos for Offline Viewing, But There’s a Catch

  • YouTube is now experimenting with a video downloading feature that saves videos on the browser cache.
  • The testing period ends on October 19, 2021, and then the platform will decide if it’ll be made permanent.
  • YouTube wants to offer an alternative to third-party downloaders and get back control of the content.

YouTube is testing a new feature that allows users to download videos from the platform for offline viewing, but it’s not as straightforward as most would have liked. The catch is that you need to be a Premium subscriber, you need to be based in France or India - and to play the downloaded video, you will still need to use a web browser with the URL “youtube.com/feed/downloads”. Well, there are multiple catches, but something is better than nothing, and it’s understandable that experimental features cannot be made available everywhere right away.

YouTube says the Download option and the files fetched through it will remain available until October 19, 2021, which is when the testing ends. Then, the platform will decide if the experiment failed or succeeded, and we’ll get to know whether it’ll be rolled out to every market or not. Hopefully, it’ll become a permanently accessible feature as people genuinely want this - there’s no better proof than the numerous third-party platforms and apps made specifically to enable them to download videos from YouTube.

In this case, the videos are downloaded onto the browser’s cache, so technically, they’re still downloaded on your computer. The user can also choose download qualities, with the maximum resolution being 1080p (FHD), and even delete downloaded videos to free up local space. The whole idea of keeping downloads on the browser and accessible through YouTube again is to retain control over the content. There’s some discrepancy between this approach's technical and practical success, but it appears that YouTube experiments with Downloads because they feel they need to do something about it.

By offering this ability as a baked-in feature, and if it becomes permanent, YouTube will capture a large portion of those who turn to risky, unsafe, unreliable, and generally shady third-party platforms that promise hassle-free video downloads from the video portal. The rest will just continue using versatile and perfectly legal tools like youtube-dl.

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