We watch a lot of YouTube videos here at Business Insider. Especially new videos, as they break news and go viral.
We noticed something strange with newly published videos: Many of them seem to get exactly 301 views, right after they go up.
Here’s a new video from the Dollar Shave Club, displaying the 301 phenom:
And here’s one from GE, showing the same thing:
It turns out there’s a reason for this. Google’s YouTube unit does this on purpose …
When a new video goes up and starts to attract attention, Google wants to make sure that the views it is getting are real, and not dubious clicks coming from botnets or unscrupulous publishers who want to make their videos look more popular than they really are …
So YouTube pauses the counter at 301 views while its systems subject the video — and its cached duplicates on servers all over the world — to a statistical process that verifies the traffic.
It’s not clear why Google chose exactly 301 as the place to pause the view count. Ted Hamilton, product manager at YouTube analytics, says he doesn’t know why they chose that number, although any video that quickly attracts views in the hundreds needs to have its traffic verified. (Unviewed videos, by definition, aren’t being played by bots.)
YouTube freezes the public counter at 301 for up to half a day or more while verification takes place. Internally, YouTube’s counters are continuing to count views. Once the traffic is verified, the total number of views is added back onto the public counter. None are missed.
Hamilton says that one flaw in the system means that really popular videos can end up with thousands of likes yet only 301 views, at least for a period of time. The 301 phenom is one of the things that video publishers ask YouTube most about, he says.
Here’s a video — which has more than 301 views — explaining the whole process: