YouTube admitted on Monday that it was purposely delaying loading times on its videos for a specific group of users.
The controversy arose after those using the Firefox browser began accusing YouTube in recent days of making videos load five seconds slower for anyone not using Google’s Chrome browser.
The purported effort was seen as evidence that Google, which owns both Chrome and YouTube, was punishing users for not using its products.
After receiving widespread attention online, Google released a statement confirming that specific users “may experience suboptimal viewing” but denied it was aimed towards those noting using Chrome.
Instead, Google told 404 Media that it was forcing the five-second delay on those using ad blockers, regardless of their browser.
“To support a diverse ecosystem of creators globally and allow billions to access their favorite content on YouTube, we’ve launched an effort to urge viewers with ad blockers enabled to allow ads on YouTube or try YouTube Premium for an ad free experience,” a company spokesperson said. “Users who have ad blockers installed may experience suboptimal viewing, regardless of the browser they are using.”
But many have been skeptical of Google’s claims. Some users tested the theory with user agent switchers, tools that trick websites into believing you are using a different browser.
One user on X said they were hit with the delay despite their browser presenting as Apple’s Safari without an ad blocker enabled. Others on websites such as Reddit likewise said they were met with a slower experience when using the Brave browser.
Yet results are inconsistent and appear to point to implementation issues on Google’s end, not on specific targeting of non-Chrome users.
Nevertheless, the issue is being met with widespread backlash online. Google’s decision comes just days after it was revealed that an upcoming version of Chrome would weaken the capabilities of ad blockers.
Google has said that the changes will help enhance browser security. Critics, however, point to ad-related security issues such as malvertising, an attack that injects malicious code into online ads.
The current fiasco is not the first time Google has been accused of targeting users in such a manner. An engineer for Mozilla, the company behind Firefox, likewise claimed in 2018 that Google was slowing down the load times for non-Chrome users on YouTube.