Don’t Like DASH? Then YouTube Center is For You


YouTube Gripes

Not too long ago, YouTube implemented a new way of streaming its videos. In the old days you would begin watching a YouTube stream and the buffer would fill up and keep streaming until it was full. Now, what happens is that you watch the video with a brief amount of buffer preceding what you are watching. This no longer allows you to jump ahead of the tiny buffer that is now provided.

That’s a great improvement over the older standards from the provider’s viewpoint, but it it isn’t worth a darn for the person who wants to watch in a variated way. Some people actually like to jump around when they watch a video and DASH doesn’t allow for that anymore.

What is DASH?

Dynamic Adaptive Streaming over HTTP (DASH). Yeah, I know… yet another geeky thing. I’ll keep it simple here and tell you that DASH is a new streaming technology whereby the stream is delivered in small increments.

Wikipedia can give you a much more detailed explanation than I possibly could. Here’s a quote:

Dynamic Adaptive Streaming over HTTP (DASH), also known as MPEG-DASH, enables high quality streaming of media content over the Internet delivered from conventional HTTP web servers. Similar to Apple’s HTTP Live Streaming (HLS) solution, MPEG-DASH works by breaking the content into a sequence of small HTTP-based file segments, each segment containing a short interval of playback time of a content that is potentially many hours in duration, such as a movie or the live broadcast of a sports event. The content is made available at a variety of different bit rates, i.e., alternative segments encoded at different bit rates covering aligned short intervals of play back time are made available. As the content is played back by an MPEG-DASH client, the client automatically selects from the alternatives the next segment to download and play back based on current network conditions. The client selects the segment with the highest bit rate possible that can be downloaded in time for play back without causing stalls or rebuffering events in the playback. Thus, an MPEG-DASH client can seamlessly adapt to changing network conditions, and provide high quality play back without stalls or rebuffering events.

The way it used to work is that the whole video was downloaded ahead of the video stream that you were viewing. This allowed you to have the whole thing on your computer before you were done watching it. This is an advantage when you want to jump around to various parts of the video. With DASH, this can’t be done.

I have found a way around this conundrum and it is a simple add-on or script called YouTube Center.

What is YouTube Center?

The image you are about to see will give you some insight into what YouTube Center is capable of:

I have sent an arrow pointing to the Dash Playback check box. Disabling this will allow the full stream to which you have become so spoiled accustomed.

YouTube Center, at least in my limited experience, is a simple Firefox add-on that will take care of a whole slew of problems, quirks, difficulties and various other disagreeable changes to your interface within the otherwise wonderful YouTube experience.

I’m sure you’ve noticed the huge number of tabs across the top of the above image. This should give you an indication of the variety of settings awaiting you. If you’re anything like me, this gives you shivers of anticipation. I realize simple minds are easily amused. Wait… You’re Laughing?!

If you don’t happen to be a Firefox fan, there are many other solutions available to you including scripts and plug-ins for other browsers as well. You can find this little gem at the GitHub Site. Drill down until you find the download you need.



8 thoughts on “Don’t Like DASH? Then YouTube Center is For You”

  1. I’d got the impression that buffering was not as far ahead of playback as it used to be. I’m musing as to whether this would still give buffering problems on a comparatively slow connection. I’m OK, having fibre-to-the-cabinet running at about 26 megs here in the UK (note the spelling!) but a friend of mine out in the sticks, some way from the telephone exchange, is always muttering about having problems viewing the Tube. Supposed to be broadband. Don’t know his exact speed but I gather it’s only a few megs.

    1. Hi Dave,

      Your connection speed really has nothing to do with the way DASH affects the download. Regardless of your speed, DASH will limit the amount of the buffer that gets filled to only a little ahead of what you are currently watching. Instead of delivering the video in its entirety, DASH sends it to you piecemeal.

      By disabling DASH, the buffer will fill to completion and possibly resolve some of your friend’s slow connection issues, especially if he is seeing a lot of re-buffering going on.

      Note what spelling? You mean fibre (UK) vs fiber (US)?

  2. Hello All,
    Since this article was published Mozilla has distributed Firefox v24. The current version of YouTube Center does not work with this updated version.

    The plugin author has stayed on top of this and has published a Beta YouTube Center plugin that works with Firefox 24. It is available at the same GitHub link I provided in the post.

    I have installed this Beta plugin update and it has worked without a glitch.


  3. I tried this with Chromium 27 and disabling dash made no difference. There was no gray bar continuing to the end, and even with the resolution set to 240, I still got hesitation once in a while. The solution for me is to use Vimeo. I can watch 480 with no issues (and it doesn’t use dash, and it streams to the end). Is it possible that youtube’s servers are overloaded?

  4. Hi John,

    I haven’t used Chrome for several months now, and I’ve never used its daddy, Chromium.

    I do know that plugins and scripts will behave differently in different browsers.

    I suppose it’s possible that since Google owns YouTube, they don’t like YouTube Center changing YouTube’s behavior. I’m only guessing here. Have you experimented with a different browser? It works flawlessly for me in Firefox.

    I seriously doubt it has anything to do with YouTube overload,

  5. Thank you, thank you, thank you! I use Firefox 24 and went to the link you provided for the GitHub site. I downloaded YouTube Center, clicked on the Dash Playback box, and – Voila! My frustrating problems that I have had with playing YouTube videos have disappeared! If there’s any starting and stopping with the playback, I just click on “pause,” wait a few seconds for a bit more of the video to download, click on “play,” and no more starting and stopping. I can now enjoy YouTube videos again – thanks to you. Thank you so much for this information!

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