Google Australia has released its ‘Google Video Quality report’, which allows users of streaming videos to check the volume and efficiency of their ISP’s video streaming. The report has been available in the US since May.
The report seems intended to deflect blame from Google if YouTube videos are slow or fuzzy. It defines three different levels of delivered video quality:
- HD Verified: Users on YouTube HD Verified networks should expect smooth playback most of the time when watching high-definition YouTube videos (720p and above).
- Standard Definition: Users on networks rated as Standard Definition should expect smooth playback on standard-definition YouTube videos (360p) and may experience occasional interruptions on high-definition YouTube videos (720p and above).
- Lower Definition: Users on networks rated as Lower Definition may experience fuzzy picture quality and frequent interruptions while playing YouTube videos at 360p and above.
In a blog post announcing local availability of the data, Google’ YouTube product manager Jay Akkad said: “If you’re regularly seeing a buffering wheel when you play YouTube videos, it’s important to know why. Starting today, Aussies can use the Google Video Quality Report to better understand the video quality available from their Internet service providers.” (The blog was reposted on Google’s Australian site on Friday when the local service became available.)
“We hope to keep finding better ways to bring you the best video experience possible, and part of that is helping you understand the way YouTube videos play when you watch it today. If the YouTube videos you watch are constantly lagging, we want to help you better understand why.”
The data has already drawn criticism from ISP’s who are specifically identified in the Google report. Australian entrepreneur’s website StartupSmart quoted spokespeople from both Optus and Telstra as pointing out that the data in the Google report is very general, and that they are both constantly improving the quality of their streaming.
Telstra’s comments: “Telstra fixed broadband customers are generally capable of streaming high definition video, however there are many factors which affect network performance, including network configuration, a customer’s equipment and software, and the number of people using a connection, which are not accounted for in the report. Of course, we also offer our mobile network which is not covered in the report.”
Optus’s comments: “There are many factors that determine video streaming quality on fixed networks, including, the source of the content, network type (ADSL 2+, Cable or NBN), distance of customer’s house from the network exchange, number of concurrent users on the network and the state of the customer’s connection.”
The reports feature a graph showing the proportion of specific ISP’s video streaming is in each of the three categories at each hour of the day, based on the average performance over the last 30 days.
“Rather than being based on data from a small sample of users, this report is based on billions of YouTube videos watched across thousands of ISPs,” says Google. “We look at how quickly all YouTube video data was loaded over the last 30 days. We segment the results by ISP and by geographical location. We determine what the minimum available speed was at least 90% of the time.”
You can search by city, state or postcode, with major ISPs in each area listed. We find that in Sydney, at the peak viewing hour of 8pm to 9pm, 79% of Optus YouTube streams are at the HD standard. At the same time of day Telstra ADSL achieves 77% and its broadband cable 91%. Dodo does worst at 57%.
The report also offers advice to users on how to improve their video streaming experience – mostly basic stuff like keeping the home network tidy, updating plug-ins, and clearing cookie and caches. “Individual results may vary depending on factors such as: the number of connected users or devices, your hardware, your software and software configuration, your connection to the Internet (wireless or fixed), and whether you have exceeded your allotted data quota.”
There is also great detail about how the ratings are determined, and a fair bit on all the wonderful things Google is doing to make the Internet faster and more fun to use. It all seems as much a Google YouTube promo as a genuine attempt to provide information, but the fact that ISPs are identified individually is useful.