YouTube’s 300 Views Freeze Up – Spam Protection or Censorship?

Posted: August 16, 2010 in Commentary

Ever noticed that newly uploaded YouTube videos seem to freeze at approximately 300 views?  Up until the freeze, the view count seems to work in real time. The freeze lasts a few minutes to a few hours, then the count jumps drastically. Freezes then tend to continue at regular intervals.

YouTube streams over 100 million videos per day with a bandwidth of 25 million gigabytes per month. Hundreds of trillions of numbers are being crunched in real time. Consider that a comment will appear as soon as it is posted (usually), and even a short comment contains more ASCII data than a view count. So why the view count lag?

The YouTube blog tried to explain the phenomenon of stalled views in March of 2009; “Video view counts reflect the YouTube community’s interests and the grassroots popularity of videos. We periodically make changes that allow us to display consistent view counts and accurately reflect a “real” view based on video consumption, video streaming and spam filtering. Unfortunately, a few people still try to artificially manipulate their video’s view counts. Some people game third-party view counts as well. That can make things unfair for everyone.

Recently, we found spamming issues associated with the view counts on a small number of videos. The inflated view count number on these videos will be frozen until actual views catch up to the published, artificial, view count. Also, a few people have commented that their view counts are updating more slowly. Occasionally the speed with which views update changes — sometimes it’s faster and sometimes it’s slower. But we are always working to make sure that the final view count numbers are an accurate reflection of the community’s interest.”

First of all, YouTube’s “algorithmic demotion” policy of 2008 makes certain videos appear less popular than they really are – so they are not concerned about democratic view counts.

YouTube has suspended many popular videos and channels for no apparent reason.

Secondly, is YouTube sleeping while those nasty spam bots take up the first 300 views?

Thirdly if only a “small number of videos” are spammed, why the automatic freeze on all my videos and on every video from every channel I subscribe to? On channels with regular daily uploads, you can see the 300-ish auto-freeze in action any time; check new videos at TheAlexJonesChannel, RussiaToday, TheCorbettReport and many others.

And finally, why, as a non-spamming, logged-in YouTube member using my regular IP address, are MY views banked? I am not much of a computer programmer, but in six lines of code I could discern between a view from a legit logged-in user, verses a view from a potential spam bot, and update the real values in real time. YouTube definitely has the technology.

On the other hand, if I were an evil programmer, charged with the task of writing code that would delete view counts without people noticing, here’s the simple algorithm I would use:

  • Stall the view count at a low, but seemingly random number – say, between 300 and 330.
  • Bank the next few views.
  • Delete a percentage of those banked views.
  • Add the new views to the existing view count.
  • Post the fraudulent value.
  • Repeat.

While you might not be able to leave your mark with a view, you usually can with a comment, so in the interest of pushing great videos to go viral, leave a short comment like “5/5” or “Support”. Here’s one I like to use: “YouTube streams trillions of bits per second all over the world, but they can’t update this view count in real time?”


Pete Swann, Dayjob Orchestra Blog

  1. Adrienne says:

    Pardon my ignorance, but are view counts really all that important? Is anything really gained by having completely accurate view counts?

  2. rataMacue22 says:

    Click on the little question mark icon by the view count on the videos. It tells you that after so many views they update it every so often. It’s like this for everyone’s videos that get over 302 views. It’s annoying and lame, but it is what it is.

  3. Parker says:


    This is merely from personal experience, and thus may not be generally accurate, but I’ve often observed that each time a news report references an internet phenomenon or celebrity of any sort, how seriously it/he/she is taken is contingent upon just such factors.

    Even when news outlets don’t intend to pass judgment by citing such statistics, I’m afraid that to many, they are taken as far more precise and objective than they in fact are.

  4. Bill says:

    Honestly? Have a kiwi. It seems you may need one.

    I personally don’t know how the algorithm works, but I’ve worked as a software architect for many years and have some insights as to how software development processes work. The trouble is, as you say, “YouTube streams trillions of bits per second all over the world.” They focus on the concurrency of output, not input. And as such, making this algorithm work successfully and quickly is going to take a backseat to making the output streaming go faster, or making the UI more user-friendly, for example. This is going to get lost in the shuffle for a while. Even though YT has what seems like resources out the wazoo, they’re still finite. No matter how many gobs of money a software shop has to throw around, the fact of the matter is that there’s only so much improvement you can stuff into each release iteration.

    I imagine that the view counts are reasonably accurate — in the long run. It is what they consider to be a reasonable workaround. Maybe you disagree, but the sad fact is that DJO doesn’t run product development at YT. I personally don’t see the harm if the view count doesn’t match for at least a while.

    If this were simply a means of making certain ideas seem less popular than others, be aware that the engineers at YT would be screaming bloody semi-anonymous murder across the Internet. Software engineers are, on average, pretty libertarian-minded folk. We tend to get pretty pissed off when someone starts unfairly mangling bytes. Also, it’s not the sort of thing we can easily overlook. We’re trained to be, in the words of one of my instructors long ago, “anal-retentive, paranoid-delusional” when it comes to system integrity.

    So basically, there are plenty of evil fiendish plots out there, but the YT view count delay ain’t one of ’em. Enjoy a kiwi, and get that next album out, mkay?

  5. Avi says:

    consider this: strategically autotuned TNG characters in a new DJO video. could be awesome!

  6. monkey1z says:

    If youtube is bugging you so bad, theres a site called . they are very relaxed about copyright infringement stuff (so long as you aren’t posting porn they don’t mind), their ad system works pretty well, and you could advertise the videos you post there on youtube for your fans to see. It works out pretty well

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