FreeTube is an open source private YouTube client

Martin Brinkmann
Dec 1, 2022
Youtube
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FreeTube is an open source cross-platform client for YouTube that promises better functionality and improved privacy. The free application is available for Windows, Linux and Mac devices. Windows users may download a portable copy and run it without installation.

At its core, FreeTube is based on Electron, which some dislike. Those who do not mind, get a well-designed YouTube client that comes without any advertisement and better functionality than the original.

FreeTube's core features include an ad-free experience, no tracking, options to follow channels and publishers without account requirement, and lots of customization options.

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The app starts with a blank screen by default, as it loads subscriptions, which are likely empty on first run. Subscriptions may be added without Google account, and they may also be imported from YouTube.

A click on trending or most popular displays videos, so does searching for content using the search box at the top.

A click on a video starts the playback immediately. The page looks very similar to the original YouTube page. The video takes up most of the screen estate, but you get channel information, related videos, the description and even comments, if you so desire, as well.

Autoplay is supported, but it can be turned off. There are options to save and download videos, share them, or change the video format. You can change the video resolution, use picture-in-picture mode, change the playback speed, and toggle subtitles.

Videos can be played in FreeTube, but there are options to play them on YouTube, an Invidious instance, or an external player that you specify instead. There is also an option to open YouTube links displayed in a web browser in FreeTube; this requires the installation of an extra extension, though.

A quick check of the player settings reveals even more options. There, you may change various defaults, including the default volume, fast forward and rewind interval, the default playback rate, desired quality or default video format.

The settings are extensive. Open the distraction free section and you find a good dozen options to deal with annoyances on the site. From hiding recommended and trending videos to disabling live chat and streams, to hiding chapters.

When it comes to playback, FreeTube uses two different options. A built-in option that is used by default or Invidious. To further improve privacy, it is possible to use an external proxy such as Tor.

Another interesting feature of FreeTube is the ability to subscribe to channels without requiring an account. Just hit the subscribe button and you find new videos under Subscriptions in the program interface. To make this even better, profiles may be used to group subscriptions and better distinguish between them.

Verdict

FreeTube is a desktop client for YouTube that provides better functionality than the original. It is privacy-friendly on top of that. Note that it is still  considered beta at this point.

Now You: do you watch YouTube videos? If so, which clients do you use for that?

Summary
Author Rating
3 based on 6 votes
Software Name
FreeTube
Operating System
Windows, Mac, Linux
Software Category
Multimedia
Landing Page
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Comments

  1. Tryfon said on December 1, 2022 at 9:18 am
    Reply

    I am using Feedly for all my feeds, including YouTube. This allows me to have everything neatly categorized and presented, in a way that YouTube itself does not allow. Combined with ublock origin and privacy badger on firefox I get rid both of annoying ads and tracking. Obviously Feedly itself remains a privacy problem, but one can use some other RSS aggregator and circumvent that.

  2. Cor Invictus said on December 1, 2022 at 10:33 am
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    Even if you bypass tracking and all that, the censorship and shadow-banning is still present.
    So, the real question is: why would anyone watch YT anyway? Cat videos? AI boosted MSM garbage; video games BS; dumb bimbos make-up tutorials; bunch of weaselly influencers and click-baiters selling you some crap?
    Why?

    1. archie bald said on December 1, 2022 at 11:38 am
      Reply

      Some people share valuable insight. The business model is truly awful but the value is still there. One can so easily learn about stuff that was hard to reach just a few years ago.
      Now this may not be good enough to some but I certainly took away a lot from it. Only the most self content/ignorant moron would call youtube content a bunch of make up tutorials.

    2. Tom Hawack said on December 1, 2022 at 12:23 pm
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      > why would anyone watch YT anyway?
      Because it is the equivalent of the The Great Alexandria Library (I wasn’t born yet!).

      1. VioletMoon said on December 1, 2022 at 9:05 pm
        Reply

        A bit of a stretch I should think if one reads about “The Great Library of Alexandria” which simply fell out of use rather than being destroyed by fire. Hyperbole? Poor Hypatia!

        But, yes, I have found a few, just a few, important videos that should be preserved indefinitely. A lot of junk as well.

        However, years ago when Protonic.com was still a tech help site, we would post mini-tutorials on YT to help clients with computer problems. It was a godsend platform for the techs at that time.

        I don’t know . . . such an “opinion” issue.

        FreeTube–just don’t use the site enough for finding information.

    3. Shadowed said on December 1, 2022 at 1:21 pm
      Reply

      @Cor Invictus, here are just some of the (alphabetically ordered) reasons: 3blue1brown, Adam Ragusea, Applied Science, CGP Grey, Computerphile, Dr. Becky, Fermilab, Minute physics, PBS Space Time, Rober Miles, Sixty Symbols, Stanford University, , Steve Mould, The Scence Asylum, The Slow Mo Guys, Veritasium…

      There are problems with youtube and there is a lot of garbage on it but there is also more good and useful stuff than you could watch in a lifetime.

      1. Tom Hawack said on December 1, 2022 at 2:28 pm
        Reply

        > “[…] there is also more good and useful stuff than you could watch in a lifetime.”

        So true. I’d add to your short list two channels among many others which concern videos filmed far before the digital era (New York, Amsterdam, Berlin, paris, Chicago, Budapest, Los Angeles, Washington D.C. … in the roaring twenties, interested?!) :

        NASS (Video Restoration) *
        [https://piped.adminforge.de/channel/UC1W8ShdwtfgjRHdbl1Lctcw]

        Vintage Stories *
        [https://piped.adminforge.de/channel/UCmUqWMG5Ym65jZoo0CRBLqQ]

        * Replace [piped.adminforge.de] by {www.youtube.com] if you worship the spy business.

        @Martin, I know surveys is not in the attributions of Ghacks but I think it’d be interesting to have an idea users’ most visited YouTube channels, maybe via an “pretext” article as an incentive to share our favorites?

      2. Karl said on December 3, 2022 at 2:58 am
        Reply

        @Tom…

        @Martin, I know surveys is not in the attributions of Ghacks but I think it’d be interesting to have an idea users’ most visited YouTube channels, maybe via an “pretext” article as an incentive to share our favorites?
        ————-

        I like this idea. May not be what this lovely tech blog is about, but yeah, that would be interesting. Good suggestion. Hope you get a great Saturday, Tom.

      3. Tom Hawack said on December 3, 2022 at 11:07 am
        Reply

        @Karl, … and a delightful Sunday (not an overstatement only our epoch’s inflation!).
        Indeed not a tech blog’s concern but given we are for most of us easily prompt to share our preferences, the idea that a slightly oriented article could encline towards our confessions . Soft manipulation so to say :=)

    4. @Cor Invictus said on December 1, 2022 at 2:27 pm
      Reply

      Pornhub > Youtube

      1. Yash said on December 2, 2022 at 11:36 am
        Reply

        @Cor Victus

        Hell yeah, I mean that isn’t even up for debate. P***Hub is definitely better.

    5. Anita Bath said on December 1, 2022 at 5:01 pm
      Reply

      There’s lots of good YT videos and channels.

    6. Aluminum said on December 2, 2022 at 6:33 am
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      I disagree Mr. Invictus, there are plenty of non-“msm” channels on YouTube, Ben Shapiro, Steven Crowder, and many others. YouTube is pretty lenient compared to Twitter etc. Yes, some of the hardcore crazy channels have been banned, but you have to repeatedly say some really stupid stuff and ignore multiple warnings to get banned. Even then the bans are usually only temporary, like the Sky News Australia one week ban.

      There are plenty of other outlets to go to if you want crazy, most those websites have the word storm in it, but I hope you are not that kind of person.

  3. piomiq said on December 1, 2022 at 11:16 am
    Reply

    I wonder why I should split my activity to web browser and second application FreeTube?
    Privacy? Properly armed (with addons) web browser (like Firefox) gives me this, so why should I run another application (additionally based on Elektron, so rather heavy) to enjoy YT?
    Reading this text I don’t see any reason.

    1. m3city said on December 1, 2022 at 1:39 pm
      Reply

      Profiling. One might make use of it and appreciate it, the other would strongly oppose. I don’t mind this application being heavy due to electron – it does the job, starts quickly, runs FASTER than youtube.com itself. Does not require logging. Has user profiles. Has parental control (well, sort of – one switch).

      1. Tom Hawack said on December 1, 2022 at 2:13 pm
        Reply

        Profiling? The OS (especially Win10/11) has a grip on whatever is connected elsewhere than from the browser itself (unless the browser is the OSs child, Edge in particular). I mean : using FreeTube to avoid YouTube inquisition at the cost of letting the OS peek on connections to FreeTube is maybe not a truly valuable exchange of spies.

        I agree with piomiq’s comment. I think a Microsoft OS already has far enough users’ data to not add to it desktop applications, at least when the same information/service is available from a (non-Microsoft) browser. Not to mention that a privacy-oriented browser such as Firefox (and a few others) has native and extension-specific prefs and firewalls which contribute to the user’s privacy (and security). My credo has always been : “Beware of desktop applications, beware”, they are only controlled by the OS. I know also that many users unconsciously consider that all their connections are handled by the browser, emphasize on browsers’ protections (and they are right to consider that) but forget that a browser (especially Win10/11) establish by themselves a myriad of connections at every moment : no point in adding a desktop application when an honest browser can do the job.

  4. Tom Hawack said on December 1, 2022 at 12:19 pm
    Reply

    I’ve tried FreeTube several years ago, found it bulky and not quite performant, especially throughout an Invidious instance. It may have improved. At this time I run all YouTube videos, channels, playlists and even embedded videos (though very few embedded YT videos require a connection to YouTube servers to retrieve the very video ID such as [france24.com]) by redirecting them all with the REDIRECTOR extension to ‘Piped’ servers which is brilliant in my experience and far more reliable than Invidious servers. YouTube servers are blocked system-wide here but not via ‘uBlock Origin’ (/Firefox) in order to allow the redirection to grab the link. Works absolutely fantastically (to put it mild!).

    When I recall the hassle of YouTube requirements (Consent : forget it buddy) and performance I feel twenty years youger now with ‘Piped’. I dare say ‘Piped for president’, lol.

    1. Klaas Vaak said on December 1, 2022 at 1:32 pm
      Reply

      @Tom Hawack: hello there, long time no speak.

      My experience with FreeTube was similar to yours. I am trying to set up Redirector to redirect YouTube to Piped.

      I have this:
      Description: YouTube
      Example URL: https://youtube.com/*
      Include pattern: https://youtube.com/*
      Redirect to: https://piped.mha.fi/
      Pattern type: Wildcard
      Pattern Description: left empty
      Describe your pattern
      Example result: https://piped.mha.fi/ (given automatically)

      Unfortunately this does not work.
      Since you have 1 of your redirects set up for YouTube to Piped, can you tell me what I am doing wrong?

      1. Tom Hawack said on December 1, 2022 at 4:28 pm
        Reply

        @Klaas Vaak, I’ve posted a reply but, again, seems to have been postponed. This is a pain given moreover that I’ve written urls with brackets … I have never understood how/why some comments are postponed other than for obvious reasons. @Martin, I’ve always loved your blog but over the years comments/replies publication remain a potential problem …

        Taking advantage of this problem to point out that in my comment I added a url to [paste.mozilla.org], first time I use that service, and discovered that anyone can delete the content, which is absurd. So here is a link that can neither be deleted neither will be removed by the server :

        [ https://paste.i2pd.xyz/?b9e4f4fa60f8cd75#AucYo7VQQuzGXFsyLgz6LG5JX9nPPzv7WxsKVJihbjEu ]

        Unless this post, AGAIN, waits for Christmas to be published …

      2. Tom Hawack said on December 1, 2022 at 6:20 pm
        Reply

        @Klaas Vaak, I forgot to remove the ‘YOUTUBE 2-B : YOUTUBE & PIPED VIDEOS TO INVIDIOUS’ (disabled) which I keep in case i’d encounter an issue with Piped instances, which never happened. I block system-wide connections to google and google/youtube servers, so here no redirect means no YT video!

        My first reply is further on, guess I’ve commented rather than used the REPLY button …
        Hope this helps. I’ve spent hours to figure this so i’m obviously proud and happy to share it. But, again, pros will certainly find it could have been achieved in a better way : it’s not because it works that it means it’s the ultimate, so true in coding :=)

      3. Klaas Vaak said on December 1, 2022 at 7:16 pm
        Reply

        @Tom Hawack: thanks a lot for your effort and kindness. I am going to look at this in more detail and try to implement it. If it is not to ask too much, please check back on Saturday, if you can. If you can’t, no hard feelings, of course, I am happy with what you have provided.

        I hope Martin will look at your comment re deletions because obviously something is wrong and is interfering with communication.

      4. Tom Hawack said on December 1, 2022 at 8:50 pm
        Reply

        @Klaas Vaak, no problem for Saturday. I’ll bring pizzas and beer :=)
        I’ll answer all questions you might have : the redirections are somewhat complex to understand by someone who hasn’t written them, especially with Regular Expressions which are a real challenge for non-initiated as myself.

        My two comments had simply been delayed, all has been fixed. I overreacted perhaps. When dealing with what seems complex for me I tend to become speedy so to say.

    2. lickingbutthacks said on December 2, 2022 at 11:56 am
      Reply

      u2 should get a room

    3. smaragdus said on December 4, 2022 at 12:58 pm
      Reply

      Electron/JavaScript junk cannot improved, it is faulty and horrible by design so it is unreparable.

  5. Zargamox said on December 1, 2022 at 3:37 pm
    Reply

    Talking about Youtube, IS there problems whith thé Android app Newpipe ? It doesnt updated vidéo for weeks and thé app itself hasn’t bien updated ?

  6. Tom Hawack said on December 1, 2022 at 4:01 pm
    Reply

    @Klaas Vaak,

    1- Concerning your Redirect :

    Description: YouTube
    Example URL: https://youtube.com/DATA [better than * in order to see the result)
    Include pattern: https://youtube.com/*
    Redirect to: https://piped.mha.fi/$1
    Pattern type: Wildcard
    Pattern Description: left empty
    Describe your pattern
    Example result: https://piped.mha.fi/DATA

    But i’m afraid you may encounter issues with specific YT urls, especially with those that include extra parameters.

    If this may interest you, or others, I have 5 redirects to handle all YT links. I’ve exported my REDIRECTOR redirects then removed all those not specific to YouTube. They all use regular expressions and crafted in order to remove all extra url parameters and to handle all YT video servers. Just replace my Piped instance with yours. Last redirect concerns any YT url which wouldn’t have been handled by the other redirects and sends the url to a dedicated landing page i’ve crafted as an html on localhost : you can omit that one! Be sure to add each redirect in the same order : order counts with REDIRECTOR. I’m not a specialist, regex works but may certainly have been better built …

    Do not import is as such from REDIRECTOR : this is only a stripped export saved as a txt file, but you’ll have all 4 redirects : [ https://paste.mozilla.org/KHtPSNGF ] : EXPIRES IN THREE WEEKS, plain text.

    Hope that helps or contributes.

    1. Klaas Vaak said on December 2, 2022 at 11:24 am
      Reply

      @Tom Hawack: I managed to try those settings out before Saturday, I was very curious.

      They work perfectly. I would never have found those Regex settings, I am completely out of my depth with Regex. I had already ditched YT, was going directly to Invidious but was not quite happy because I regularly have to try a different version of e.g. a music piece because the one I tried did not work. From what you said higher up, Piped is a lot better.

      Many thanks for your help, as usual.

      1. Tom Hawack said on December 2, 2022 at 11:42 am
        Reply

        @Klaas Vaak, Regex is indeed more than a brain-teaser : a brain torturer! I’ve spent a lot of time because basically I searched and extrapolated, modified, restored … A Regex specialist I was congratulating for his skills even told me ‘No one understands Regex, we just sort of try and test” : he was exaggerating but one thing is sure : more you get into it more your brains sort of gets fed with a logic you may not completely apprehend consciously, very strange.

        The great thing with the REDIRECTOR extension is that you can see immediately the result without actually saving it : spares a lot of time.

        A list which helps is :
        Regex symbol list and regex examples
        [https://www.codexpedia.com/regex/regex-symbol-list-and-regex-examples/]

        Very happy that it fits into your wishes, so to say :=)

      2. Klaas Vaak said on December 2, 2022 at 1:30 pm
        Reply

        @Tom Hwack: thanks, Tom, I’ll check out the Regex page.

  7. Struts said on December 1, 2022 at 4:16 pm
    Reply

    FreeTube has been in Beta since forever. I tried a few months ago on both linux and windows and it did not work properly at all. I won’t bother again, not before it goes stable…which could be forever. Seems like the developer spent most of his time on the webpage. So I’m still stuck on using Ungoogled Chromium on linux/windows with the extensions uBlock Origin, I don’t care about cookies, h264ify, YouTube Auto HD + FPS, for all my YouTube needs. On Android that’s all of course taken care of by NewPipe.

  8. Ubik said on December 1, 2022 at 9:22 pm
    Reply

    “I wonder why I should split my activity to web browser and second application FreeTube”

    ” why would anyone watch YT anyway”

    I would say don’t even bother discussing with these peple, it is pointless.

    For people like me personally, who still use old Firefox, with which youtube is now unusable, and I am not alone, thank you Ghacks for this post. Freetube is now my official youbube playing thing.

    I was tired of joggling with invidious instances and using the “embed” in every youtube link in my Firefox with 50-50 chances of success. This now simplifies things greatly.

  9. Trey said on December 2, 2022 at 8:30 am
    Reply

    Been using FreeTube for a while now and it’s awesome.

  10. Jody Thornton said on December 3, 2022 at 3:09 pm
    Reply

    What’s the minimum version for Windows? Does it have to be 10?

    1. Jody Thornton said on December 5, 2022 at 10:59 am
      Reply

      Hello? Anyone?

    2. Martin Brinkmann said on December 5, 2022 at 11:16 am
      Reply

      There is no information about that on the developer website. Since it is based on Electron, I assume that it will run fine on Windows 7 and 8.1.

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