In a nutshell: It’s not unusual for YouTube, like other streaming leaders, to see increased traffic during evening hours when people are off work. With shelter in place orders now in effect across several communities around the globe, however, the Google-owned streaming giant is seeing a steadier flow of consumption throughout the day.

YouTube starting today will stream videos at standard definition (480p) quality by default for users worldwide in an effort to ease Internet traffic according to a report from Bloomberg.

The move is an expansion of measures taken in Europe last week for the same reason. YouTube told the publication that users will still be able to watch content at a higher quality setting but they’ll have to manually choose to do so as clips will start out in SD quality by default.

To change the quality of a YouTube video, simply click the gear icon then select quality to choose from whichever options are available for the particular clip you are viewing.

According to a report last summer from networking equipment company Sandvine, Google was the top consumer of bandwidth on the Internet with 12 percent of all traffic volume. Netflix finished second at 11.44 percent followed by Facebook at 7.79 percent.

YouTube told Bloomberg that it will continue to work closely with governments and network operators around the world to do their part to minimize stress on the system during this unprecedented period.

YouTube is the only major streaming provider to implement such measures in the US although now that a precedent has been set, it is almost a guarantee that others will follow suit in the coming days.

Masthead credit:, graphic by Sandvine