Darrin Blankenship

This happens to me all the time: see interesting looking embedded YouTube video on website in my morning RSS trawl. Try to watch video. It loads verrrrrry slowwwwly, if at all. Stop video, click through to watch video on YouTube (or in the YouTube app), works just fine.

This happens too often, in too many different situations to seem like poor network conditions. Is this intentional fuckery from Google? At first glance I would think no. Embedded or not, the video is still being served by YouTube and YouTube can still do all the tracking and ad insertion they do on YouTube itself. But… there’s been a lot of talk lately about dark patterns and “engagement”.

It seems to me that, maybe, what’s going on here is that YouTube borks embedded video (it seems worse on sites that have interesting content that isn’t YouTube. For instance, I don’t even try to watch embedded video on BoingBoing) just because it knows you’re more likely to get grabbed by the next shiny thing they algorithmically surface if you’re on YouTube proper than on whatever site embedded the video that caught your eye.

Maybe I’m cynical or maybe this is known behavior or maybe I’m imagining motives for otherwise innocuous and explainable network behavior. But maybe it’s manipulative fuckery.