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YouTube announced in November that they would be testing out encoding videos at higher resolutions (and with higher-quality audio encoding). We’re not talking about HD quality but if you add &fmt=18 to the end of the URL you might get an MP4-encoded version, with better audio and a 480×360 resolution.
The new resolution isn’t set as standard as of yet, but by applying the simple parameter above, or by installing the Firefox add-on Better Youtube (all automatic), you will get the new higher-quality version (if the video’s been made available as MP4).
For registered users it’s even simpler. In the account settings there’s now a section where you can adjust the “Video Playback Quality”. Choose “I have a fast connection. Always play higher-quality video when it’s available” and you will get the MP4 version if available. It does however require that you have an account and are logged in.
However, the benefits of this upgrade strongly relies on the quality of the uploaded movie. Thus it’s the users that in the end determines the outcome of this. Maybe it would be better to have the videos shown in as high quality as the source allowed? Most users have blistering fast connections these days anyway, but I assume Youtube might be somewhat concerned about bandwidth…
What’s your take on this?