Youtube no longer gives you 301 “free” views

Image via https://twitter.com/youtube
Image via twitter.com/youtube

When Youtube first launched in 2005, it was easy to rack up really high view counts; all you had to do was go to your video and reload the page over and over and over.  The site counted each page view as a video view so if you wanted to have an impressive (but fake) view count, you could install and run a plugin that would “reload and refresh” the page every 5 or 10 seconds.  Youtube’s engineer’s caught on to that trick pretty quick and soon the implemented the site’s mysterious 301 rule.  You’ve probably noticed that sometimes Youtube videos get “stuck” at 301 views, right?  Well there’s a technical explanation for that phenomenon.  The first 300 “views” were actually just page views.  So if you refreshed your browser over and over, you could generate a bunch of free (i.e. fake) views.  But once the counter hit 300, Youtube would start scrutinizing the source of your views.  If too many views came from the same IP, the counter would freeze until the TRUE view count caught up to the page view count.  And if a video was actually going viral, and if multiple views were registered at the exact moment the counter hit 300, the view count would freeze at 301, 302, 303, etc views.

Confused?  If you are, don’t worry about it because last year Youtube refined their code and did away with the 301 system.  Now that the changes have been fully implemented and tweaked, I decided to run a little experiment.  On June 23rd, 2016, I uploaded a very boring video to Youtube.  I gave it a simple title that probably wouldn’t come up in anyone’s search results.  Here it is:



I let the video sit for a few days so the file could spread across Youtube’s servers.  (When you upload a new video, copies are sent to severs around the world.  Once the process is complete, the view count starts showing views from other regions).  Then I used a Firefox plugin to reload my video’s page over and over.

When I started this process my video had 4 views.  I set my browser to reload the page every 10 seconds.  Every time the page reloaded, a new view was added to the counter.  After 50 reloads, the counter froze at 54.  I let the plugin keep going got another 10 minutes but the counter was stuck.

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I shut off the plugin and closed my browser.  I then left the video alone for a few days to see what would happen.  The next time I checked it, the view count has actually gone down.  That means Youtube automatically checked the validity of ALL of my views.  It found too many from the same IP address and so those views were removed.

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I can understand why Youtube made this change but frankly I think they went a little overboard.  Where’s the harm in letting people generate a few free views?  A brand new video with only 2 or 3 views looks a little pathetic.  So I used to reload my videos 20 or 30 times just to rack up some views before I sent it to anyone.  Now that I think about it, these new changes will probably inspire more people to buy fake youtube views.  And it’s those folks that are really damaging the integrity of the site.