Gangnam Style breaks YouTube, well kind of. I know what you are thinking. This is a totally BS claim. YouTube isn’t broken, and it has never been broken. Well it kind of was, and the site proved to be no match for the musician from South Korea.
Who hasn’t seen Gangnam Style? Surprisingly there would be about four billion people that could they haven’t. But even though that’s a lot of people, that means that over two billion people have seen the video with a very catchy tune, debatable video clip, and ridiculous dance moves. Riding a pony, really? It was so popular that it didn’t even matter if the words could be understood or not. It was a true worldwide phenomenon. Gangnam Style was so popular that it very nearly broke YouTube.
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Back when YouTube was first launched it was really just another site that had a possibly good idea, like so many others. No one knew how well it would perform, what the future held for a video sharing site, or even how many people would use it. I mean, just take a look at the first video ever on YouTube, it’s hardly inspiring material. But despite that, when you create a website you hope for the best, praying to get a lot of people visiting the site. If it’s a user generated site, such as YouTube and Facebook, you really hope for an avalanche of willing and creative contributors. Believing that the site would become popular to a degree, they placed a limit on the number of views the video view counter would count. This is where Gangnam Style breaks YouTube.
Back when YouTube was really starting to take off, a video that got a few million view was regarded as a massive hit. Now a million views is a pretty big number, but these days, with millions of users daily, and hours upon hours of videos being uploaded daily, videos pass the million mark sometimes within hours of being uploaded. But as we said, it wasn’t always that way, and the original creators never expected a video like PSY’s to come along.
When YouTube was made the video counter was based on a 32-bit integer. This is a unit of data in computer programming language. The maximum positive value of which is 2,147,483,647. Now as you know, Gangnam Style passed one billion views in late 2012. Most expected the views to slowly grind to a halt, or at best, a slow crawl. But that wasn’t the case. Although the views did slow, they continued to climb ever higher, getting very close to the limit set when the site was launched. Gangnam Style had the potential to break YouTube, but it didn’t.
We never thought a video would be watched in numbers greater than a 32-bit integer (=2,147,483,647 views), but that was before we met PSY
When the programmers at Google, the owners of YouTube noticed the approaching catastrophe, they took action. They changed the counter from a 32 bit integer to a 64 bit integer. What this did was allowed the views to continue to climb well past the initial limit of 2,147,483,647 views. That limit, believe it or not, is now 9,223,372,036,854,775,808. That’s 9 quintillion views. That should be plenty of room for PSY, dare I say it, Bieber, or the next 200 one hit wonders to grace the video sharing platform.
People still play this video an absurd number of times
~Google spokesman Matt McLernon
To celebrate the ever growing views of the pop song, YouTube have added an Easter egg to the video. If you hover over the view counter on the video play page the numbers will spin backwards and forwards.
So now that you know how close PSY’s Gangnam Style came to breaking YouTube, did you know that you can break it too? If you go to a video play screen and click on a white area of the screen, then type in 1980, a game will start. It’s basically a game like space invaders, but the screen will be attacked and destroyed if you fail to protect it.