How come YouTube doesn't append the video title to the video URL?

I know they are owned by Google so good SEO isn't exactly necessary, but from a user experience stand point it makes much more sense. It allows people clicking links posted by others to be able to see the title of the video.

A lot of sites, such as Reddit and even this site create links with the title appended at the end.

For example: http://ux.stackexchange.com/questions/13097/what-ui-design-should-i-use-for-a-smartphone-app

I understand that only http://ux.stackexchange.com/questions/13097/ is processed and the rest is moot, but it still is a huge convenience for the rest to exist as an end-user.

What I don't understand is why YouTube doesn't do this. Is there any real reason or is it just laziness?

  • it's not a bad suggestion for them, but I'm not sure it's laziness. Maybe they're saving like $12m a week in bandwidth by doing so... Commented Oct 27, 2011 at 2:26
  • Having the title in the URL is not just a convenience for the end user, but a SEO method as well. URL's containing readable words may get ranked higher. "When possible, readable words rather than long ID numbers" says Google... ironically in a link that itself has an article id instead of the topic as words. :) Commented Oct 27, 2011 at 6:37
  • 1
    Is this question answerable by anyone other than a Youtube employee?
    – Rahul
    Commented Oct 27, 2011 at 10:26
  • 11
    to allow for more effective rick-rolling, of course. Commented Oct 27, 2011 at 14:52
  • 1
    "It allows people clicking links posted by others to be able to see the title of the video." - I would argue that adding it would create an easily-breakable expectation. If the title part of the URL isn't processed, you can change it to say anything you want for any video, before sending it to someone. That would make for effective Rickrolling.
    – Izkata
    Commented Nov 7, 2011 at 21:04

3 Answers 3


I do not want to speculate on YouTube's decision, but if i was building a similar site, i would also use a short, case sensitive string. Here are my reasons.

  1. Querying for the page is faster and the size of the index is smaller (technical reason).
  2. I would not have to force users to use unique titles (unless adding ID).
  3. I can allow users to rename their videos, without running into redirect mess (unless adding ID).
  4. The pages are smaller (HTML size), which increases loading speed and saves bandwidth.
  • I don't think it would be difficult to design a web site so that if article #24601 exists any address starting with /articles/24601/ would be treated identically (ignoring everything after the third slash). If an request is received for /articles/24601/whats-up-with-that but article #24601 doesn't exist, the extended URL might allow other means of trying to find a suitable redirect target.
    – supercat
    Commented Nov 8, 2014 at 16:48

My guess is: No reason at all. Or laziness, if you prefer that. And some prefer to use fancier terms like "cost-effectiveness" or somesuch. :)

It's easier and systemwise more simple to have code and server setup that deals with just id's in the url. They haven't bothered to change it.

  • 1
    I think this is a bit more technically complex than you might realize; the video title can change at any time infinitely, urls could break all the time resulting in lots of URL redirects or rewrites if people started sharing the full "title" link. In addition the raw URL is rarely shared (the Twitter and Facebook sharing options all include the title). In addition not that many people actually read the URL, they probably stop at the ?etw34E gibberish, whether or not there's more text after.
    – Zelda
    Commented Oct 27, 2011 at 14:20
  • I don't think it's that complex. The usual way to do this would be to have the id also included in the URL, and only process that part of the URL for item identification. In case of a title (and thus url) change a user landing to a page with an old url title can also be 303 redirected to the correct page. Now, if videos changing titles would be a common use case for the app, this behaviour might be worth rethinking - but instead it has to be quite a rare case. Though I do agree that implementing it woudn't be that big of an improvement anyway. Commented Oct 27, 2011 at 17:42
  • It would be a rare case, but on a site like youtube, "rare events" happen probably every second. It would be a significant absolute increase in processing, with what I would be would be a minor UX improvement. Those of us who know to read URLs are usually smart enough to trust a URL once we see "youtube", the full URL isn't that important for trust, and there's not a huge barrier of "Oh geez, should I watch this video I can instantly pause or navigate away from?"
    – Zelda
    Commented Oct 27, 2011 at 18:47
  • (Ehm, that should be 301 redirected of course. Damn brain memory seek failures.) Commented Oct 28, 2011 at 10:32

It allows people clicking links posted by others to be able to see the title of the video.

And? For Google in the end it's counterproductive: humans are curious thus stirred by their high expectations they are more inclined to click on an indefinite link. If you include the title to the URL you will certainly give more reasons to not click to the ones who were hesitating than convert new followers which will be enticed by the title.

Your assumption is incorrect: they value their ads income way more than the UX.
The negative impact can't possibly be compensated by the few benefits. They would never introduce a change which would undermine the links' inherent virality. An excessive illustration of this effect in action is the rickrolling's success.

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