YouTube made two announcements related to the coronavirus pandemic: The rollout of a dedicated hub on its homepage for information related to the crisis, and switching streaming to standard-definition by default in Europe in order to help ease demand on internet infrastructure.
The Google-owned video site said in a tweet that a Covid-19 news shelf is being rolled out on its homepage in 16 countries, with plans to expand it further.
And YouTube responded to calls from the European Commission for streaming platforms to do what they could to lessen demand on the internet infrastructure during the crisis.
A YouTube spokesperson said, “People are coming to YouTube to find authoritative news, learning content and make connections during these uncertain times. While we have seen only a few usage peaks, we have measures in place to automatically adjust our system to use less network capacity. We are in ongoing conversations with the regulators (including Ofcom), governments and network operators all over Europe, and are making a commitment to temporarily default all traffic in the U.K. and the European Union to standard-definition. We will continue our work to minimize stress on the system, while also delivering a good user experience.”
Users can still manually switch to high-definition.
Netflix took similar steps earlier this week.
EU internet market commissioner Thierry Breton said in a statement, “Millions of Europeans are adapting to social distancing measures thanks to digital platforms, helping them to telework, e-learn and entertain themselves. I warmly welcome the initiative that Google has taken to preserve the smooth functioning of the internet during the Covid-19 crisis by having YouTube switch all EU traffic to standard-definition by default. I appreciate the strong responsibility that (Alphabet and Google CEO Sundar Pichai) and (YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki) have demonstrated. We will closely follow the evolution of the situation together.”