YouTube is a real mixed bag. It’s home to so much of our favourite stuff on the internet, but the experience of using website itself isn’t great — filled with distracting recommendations, poor personalisation, and ads, ads, ads — unless you take advantage of desktop browser extensions that can make it better.
While I used to rely on a litany of smaller add-ons to remove unwanted recommendations, declutter the YouTube homepage, and make up for the lack of personalisation options, there’s a powerful open-source extension called Improve YouTube that does all of that and more, all by itself.
I installed Improve YouTube after reading gHacks’ praise for the extension’s bevy of features — there are well over 80 at this point, and more are added regularly. It does everything from outfitting YouTube’s website (or web app) with better controls and layout options, to blocking ads, comments, and unwanted channel recommendations, and way more.
Improve YouTube is available for FireFox and Chrome (and therefore other Chromium browsers like Edge), and both versions sport the same capabilities. To get started, download Improve YouTube for your browser, then click the Improve Tube icon next to the URL bar. From there, you can select one of nine menus to access Improve Tube’s many features:
- “General” includes toggles for changing basic behaviours — like marking watched videos, changing thumbnail appearance, changing the default landing page, and more.
- “Appearance” is a visual customisation menu that lets you rearrange or hide almost every element of the website. I removed the “Related” videos section and hid the comments — because let’s be honest, no one needs to read YouTube comments.
- “Theme” allows you to apply customised themes to YouTube, change the font size and colours, and even turn on a built-in blue light filter. And for those feeling nostalgic (or stubborn) you can even restore the “classic” YouTube layout if you want.
- The “Player” menu lets you customise the video player and adjust YouTube’s default video and audio quality. You can even add extra video controls like Playback Speed, Loop, Screenshot, and Rotate Video buttons.
- “Playlist” lets you change the default playlist and autoplay behaviours.
- “Channel” has options for what you see when you open a specific channel.
- “Shortcuts” lets you modify or add keyboard shortcuts for controlling the website and the web player.
- The “Blacklist” menu is used to block entire channels or specific videos.
- “Analyser” will collect your YouTube usage data. It’s off by default.
The full list of Improve YouTube’s features (and guides for using them) are included on the Firefox and Chrome extension pages. You can also review the open-source code and read even more documentation on the project’s GitHub page and the official website.
That’s just a quick highlight of Improve YouTube’s full feature set, but there’s plenty more to explore, including minor-but-useful tweaks like changing video autoplay settings and adding new keyboard shortcuts. Other, larger features include ad blocking, a bandwidth limiter, windowed fullscreen mode, and more.
To be fair, there are some things you can’t do with Improve YouTube — like organising your subscriptions into folders — but it’s more than likely capable of doing the work of most or all of your current YouTube-related browser extensions.