Google-owned YouTube channel has officially rolled out an update to its desktop website making it so that videos shot in portrait orientation and shared on the site won’t be letterboxed with black bars. This an automatic update to its desktop web player and no additional work is required by users.
The new YouTube desktop site was designed for 16:9 video performance, with videos in any other aspect ratio most commonly 4:3 for old TV material or 9:16 for vertical smartphone video – encountered with black bars until they fit the 16:9 box. With this new “feature”, which has been a long run coming and is definitely overdue as far as the desktop experience for YouTube is concerned.
Accessing the video playback functionality on an iOS or Android device already has this functionality in place with the black boxes on either side of the portrait video already removed from playback experience. This is now replaced by either whitespace or an expansive video where possible.
In a change that Google is currently rolling out, those black bars are now being scrapped, and the video box will instead take on the aspect ratio of the content it’s showing. With the new desktop experience, viewers will be given an experience that automatically adjusts the videos aspect ratio to fit the screen’s size.
All videos that are already uploaded, or are uploaded in the future, in either 16:9, 4:3, or shot entirely vertically, will be affected by this new change. For anyone those who are watching those uploaded videos, it should be immediately evident that the black frame around the media has now been entirely removed and thus, the experience can better adjust to different window sizes depending on the computer and the screen size that is being used to watch the video.
Some people and YouTubers may not immediately approve of the change Google made to its YouTube channel as it does represent quite a jarring visual difference from what we are used to. However, it does actually mean that the video will now be able to make the best possible use of the available space, which can, by means, only be a positive thing for the majority of YouTube viewers.
Unlike the previous rollout of this functionality to the native apps on iOS and Android, desktop viewers don’t actually need to do anything in order to benefit from the change. YouTube has already done the necessary work for this change to be put in place, which the new display mechanisms should already be live right now.
For vertical video support, YouTube desktop benefits are less apparent – empty space will open up on each side of the video. But even there, removal of the black bars means that narrow browser windows are less likely to cause the video to be sized down. Even 16:9 video is getting a little larger due to reduced margins and white space.
One might expect a change that makes videos a bit bigger to be embraced by YouTube users, where the YouTube Help Forum thread that describes the new design and rationale behind it is filled with unhappy YouTube users who want a return to the more consistent layout and positioning that the old design offered.
Update: YouTube Desktop website now supports vertical videos with no black bars. Give it a try for yourself. Find a video in your loved list or something favorable you watch all of the time that used to have black bars down the side and see what it looks like right now.
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