Pixel Envy

Written by Nick Heer.

YouTube’s Poorer Performance in Non-Chrome Browsers

If you follow me on Twitter, you may have caught wind of my frustration a couple of weeks ago with YouTube’s universally slow pages and my inability to find a Safari extension to put me out of my misery. Well, turns out I’m not alone. Chris Peterson of Mozilla:

YouTube page load is 5x slower in Firefox and Edge than in Chrome because YouTube’s Polymer redesign relies on the deprecated Shadow DOM v0 API only implemented in Chrome. […]

YouTube serves a Shadow DOM polyfill to Firefox and Edge that is, unsurprisingly, slower than Chrome’s native implementation. On my laptop, initial page load takes 5 seconds with the polyfill vs 1 without. Subsequent page navigation perf is comparable.

This is hugely frustrating because there really is no alternative to YouTube. Peterson points to a Firefox extension which restores the older YouTube layout that does not require polyfills to work; but, for other browsers, the easiest method is to manually add a cookie.

Tom Warren of the Verge:

It’s the latest case of Google building and tuning its web services so they work better or only work in the company’s Chrome browser. Google Meet, Allo, YouTube TV, Google Earth, and YouTube Studio Beta have all blocked Microsoft Edge in the past, and Google Meet, Google Earth, and YouTube TV have all also been blocked if you use Firefox. Google even blocked its Google Maps service on Windows Phone years ago in a passive-aggressive move that it eventually reversed. It’s an ongoing problem that means Chrome is slowly turning into the next Internet Explorer 6.

The implication here seems to be that Google has built YouTube to run well specifically in Chrome because they want more people using their own browser, and that it’s somewhat anticompetitive in the vein of their blocking of other products on competing platforms. I get that angle, but I think it’s misapplied here. It seems more likely to me that Google just didn’t adequately test YouTube in non-Chrome browsers, probably because they’re less popular and maybe because they don’t care. It’s not malicious; it’s laziness bordering on incompetence.