End Screen Bloat

Last summer, discussion peaked about the aggregate size of app updates for essentially nothing other than vague “bug fixes and performance improvements”. Consider Facebook, which updates its flagship app, Messenger, and Instagram all more than once a month, to hundreds of millions of users, at 100+MB each time. Aside from the impact to each user, the combined resources and power to store and deliver these bundles can’t be negligible.

I wonder if the same can be said for YouTube end screens. You’re probably familiar with these: the extra couple seconds of footage after a YouTube video with buttons to subscribe to the channel, or jump directly to another highlighted or recent video, on top of channel imaging or b-roll. I don’t know they work behind the scenes beyond this help page, but it does look like they’re rendered and tacked onto the actual movie file. And, speaking only for myself here, I think they’re worthless. I rarely if ever interact with them and almost always close the tab when they begin playing.

Take the Desus & Mero1 channel as an example. They air four nights a week and usually share four clips from the show the next day, each ending with a title card and end screen. As of this writing, the channel has over 93 million total views. Let’s assume half of those views played the entire video, including the title card and end screen, at an average quality of 720p. I grabbed a recent clip in 720p using youtube-dl and trimmed out the content, leaving 13 seconds of end screen footage at ~1.25MB. Multiplied by the 1,130 videos they’ve uploaded, that’s over 1.4 gigabytes of the same2 end screen footage stored with Google. Storage space is cheap, but not free. And, multiplied by 46.5 million views, that’s over 58 terabytes of bandwidth, for the same footage played over and over.

Of course, there were a lot of assumptions just made and the figure could be much, much lower. But it’s still staggering to think of all the popular YouTube channels with full-quality end screens, both taking up space on Google’s servers – propagated across their vast CDN – and streamed to viewers. Something to think about this Earth Day.