Changes Ahead for YouTube Video Page URLs

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Over on the YouTube API Blog they’re announcing an upcoming change to video page URLs that is interesting.  It’s not a change that video viewers and every day users will notice, but is one that could impact developers–which is why it’s showing up on the API Blog instead of the standard YouTube blog.

The URL is having one standard character replaced with something new.  While they are set up so that both URL versions will work for users, the developers using the YouTube API will have to account for the change in their code.

In other words, we’ve secretly replaced your standard URL with Folgers Crystals… let’s see if you notice the difference:

Old format:

New format:!v=ylLzyHk54Z0

Did you catch it?  The “?” following the word “watch” will now be replaced by the character combination of “#!”.  Why?  I’m no programmer, but the Jeff Posnick—the guy who authored the blog post—says it’s part of an AJAX rewrite of the website.

As Posnick explains, the real concern is for developers who are using customized code that is expecting and seeking out that “?” in the URLs.  The video’s unique ID (in our example above, the “ylLzyHk54Z0” part) will not change from one URL version to the other, but applications using the “?” as part of how they find that unique ID for a particular video will sputter.  They will need to be rewritten to allow for both the “?” and the “#!”.

Regular, everyday video-watching users of YouTube won’t likely notice a thing.  Some of them will be served the new version of the URLs, some will still see the “?” versions for quite some time.  Odds are that almost zero of them will care.

But developers should take note and make the necessary adjustments to their code so that their own users don’t experience issues.

It’s pretty cool that YouTube is so open about this stuff.  Sure, I understand there’s value for YouTube in helping third-party developers succeed.  You might even say they feel that it’s vital to keep developers in the loop.  But I think there’s a level of preparation here—advance warning, if you will… forethought—that developers must appreciate.  Even on a tiny change that would be insignificant to 99.9% of the general public, YouTube takes the time to alert their partners and users so that even the slightest problem can be avoided.


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