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YouTube co-founder Steve Chen, speaking at the NewTeeVee Live conference today, confirmed that high-quality YouTube video streams are coming soon. Although YouTube's goal, he said, is to make the site's vast library of content available to everyone, and that requires a fairly low-bitrate stream, the service is testing a player that detects the speed of the viewer's Net connection and serves up higher-quality video if viewers want it.
Why wouldn't they? Because the need to buffer the video before it starts playing will change the experience. Hence the experiment, rather than just a rapid rollout of this technology. On stage, he said the current resolution of YouTube videos has been "good enough" for the site untill now.
Chen told me he expects that high-quality YouTube videos will be available to everyone within three months.
Chen also confirmed that in YouTube's internal archive, all video is stored at the native resolution in which it was sent. However, he said, a large portion of YouTube videos are pretty poor quality to begin with--320x240. Streaming them in high-quality mode isn't going to help much.