YouTube's experimental desktop video downloading feature is severely lacking
Google is testing a new experimental feature on YouTube currently that gives YouTube premium subscribers options to download videos on the desktop for later viewing. It is unclear how wide-reaching the experiment is, but reports suggest that it is not limited to a single geographical region.
All YouTube Premium subscribers need to do is sign-in to their account on YouTube, and visit the site's New page, which lists experimental features that users may activate for a limited period.
Once joined, YouTube premium subscribers will see a download button when a video is watched or when the three-dots menu is opened. Downloaded videos may then be watched on http://youtube.com/feed/downloads. The experiment is set to end on October 19th, 2021. According to the description, downloads are limited to the browser's Chrome, Edge and Opera.
The implementation is temporary at this point, and it is not clear if Google will make it a permanent option on desktop versions of YouTube for all premium customers.
Downloading videos is a much requested feature on desktop YouTube. The mobile clients have supported the functionality for some time, but only for premium subscribers. The feature may sound good on paper, but it is lacking in several areas when compared to third-party solutions such as youtube-dl, Internet Download Manager, or mobile applications such as SkyTube.
Here are the main downsides:
- Downloads are limited to premium subscribers.
- Downloads are limited to Chrome, Edge and Opera.
- Downloads may be viewed only on http://youtube.com/feed/downloads.
- The maximum resolution is 1080p; larger resolution downloads, e.g. 4K videos, are not supported.
If you want to view videos in a different player or on another device, you can't use YouTube's experimental download feature. If you want to watch 4K or larger resolutions, you can't either. Lastly, you are limited to three web browsers officially, even though others, especially Chromium-based ones, might work as well.
YouTube's native option may work for premium subscribers who don't want to use third-party solutions or don't know about them. Those who do, will continue to use third-party solutions as these offer better and unlimited functionality.
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