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In context: Every now and then, YouTube runs limited "experiments" to test new features or new viewing options. The streaming giant seemingly does so to collect user feedback and change its plans accordingly.
The latest experiment from YouTube is about a new quality option for video streaming, a "1080p Premium" option which is only accessible to paying subscribers of the YouTube Premium service. YouTube has confirmed the experiment, even though the company is not planning to remove the usual viewing options provided to free users at this time.
The new option was noticed by some Reddit users, who lamented the fact that YouTube's new CEO was "already making changes." The 1080p Premium option seemingly provides an enhanced bitrate for Full HD resolution. As video enthusiasts know pretty well, a higher (or "enhanced") bitrate means more bits are streamed in the player, providing a higher quality video experience using the same codec technology.
Bitrate is actually just one variable in the complex equation for internet videos, as resolution, color depth and the overall quality of the original video also play a role in the viewing experience. Furthermore, when a video is uploaded to YouTube, its quality usually goes down despite one's best efforts to use the highest possible bitrate during the video editing phase.
According to YouTube spokesperson Paul Pennington, the new 1080p streaming option is currently available to "a small group of YouTube Premium subscribers." Pennington explains the "enhanced bitrate" part as a way to provide more information per pixel that results in a "higher quality viewing experience."
Pennington also confirmed that the new option doesn't affect the existing 1080p video quality for non-paying users. YouTube's standard bitrate for Full HD videos can hover between 8 and 10 megabits per second, which results in a stark decline of the video quality compared to a 1080p home video release on Blu-ray disc that can go up to 40 Mbps.
According to a screenshot of the "stats for nerds" YouTube tool provided by yet another Reddit user, the new 1080p Premium option seemingly goes up to around 13 Mbps compared to the aforementioned 10 Mbps upper limit.
In recent times, YouTube ran another experiment with video quality by hiding the 4K/Ultra HD resolution behind the Premium paywall. The move was essentially rejected by the community, as users were losing something they had free access to for years. 1080p Premium is providing an additional viewing option with no paywall for the original free experience, so the move shouldn't encounter the same negative reaction from video makers.