How does YouTube work? And should you download the videos?

Sunday, August 12, 2007
posted by Geetesh on 9:12 AM IST

Although the title says YouTube videos, this post discusses any other similar video sharing sites. The technology that YouTube and other sites use may be something like this:

  1. You upload your videos in any of the formats that YouTube accepts.

  2. YouTube then converts your video to the FLV format -- this Flash based format is more suitable for viewing the content online.

  3. You are provided a URL where this FLV content is embedded.

  4. You can then share this URL with anyone, or use some embedding code to place the video on your site. The code that you embed sources the FLV from the YouTube site. At any point of time, you are not provided a direct download URL for the FLV file itself.

Although it is possible to do so, sites like YouTube don't really want visitors to be able to download the actual FLVs. However many programs and hacks have been developed that get over this limitation.

There's also another aspect to this download issue: plainly, you may be breaking copyright rules if you download content that belongs to someone else.

And there's yet another thought, that of the video quality. Most of the content on YouTube is compressed so that the videos can play well over all types of Internet connections. Sometimes, you can request the original owner of the video for a higher quality copy. This approach also allows you to request their permission to use the video clip.

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