It seems 2023 is the year Google has decided to make you use YouTube the way it wants you to use YouTube.
First, the company began getting aggressive with viewers visiting YouTube with ad blockers. Users start by seeing a pop-up warning them not to use ad blockers on YouTube, but are able to close it and continue on. Soon after, the pop-up doesn’t close, at least not until YouTube detects the user disables their ad blocker.
Not everyone is experiencing this anti-ad blocker strategy yet, but that doesn’t mean Google is sparing them, either. Now, the company appears to be slowing down YouTube speeds on non-Chrome browsers such as Firefox and Edge.
How the YouTube slowdown works
Firefox who first noticed the “artificial slowdown,” reporting that loading a YouTube video takes a solid five seconds in Mozilla’s browser, while loading instantaneously in Google’s. You can see the effect in action in this Reddit post: A Firefox user clicks a Linus Tech Tips video to watch, then stares at a blank screen for five seconds until the video page finally loads into view.
Even from this preview video, it’s evident that this isn’t your average slow network connection issue. Within this context, you can tell there’s something stopping YouTube from loading right away. When YouTube does finally load, it does so quite quickly.
There are reports of this activity happening in Edge as well, although I don’t seem to encounter the issue on either browser using uBlock Origin.
Google doesn’t deny slowing down browsers
In response to press requests about the situation, Google did not confirm it is slowing down browser intentionally, but it didn’t deny it, either. In fact, Google confirmed viewers using ad blockers on YouTube could encounter issues:
To support a diverse ecosystem of creators globally and allow billions to access their favorite content on YouTube, we’ve launched an effort to urge viewers with ad blockers enabled to allow ads on YouTube or try YouTube Premium for an ad free experience … Users who have ad blockers installed may experience suboptimal viewing, regardless of the browser they are using.
Google’s statement mostly focuses on its previously announced anti-ad blocking efforts. However, saying that ad blockers could provide users “suboptimal viewing” in response to questions about this slowdown issue perhaps implies Google is doing this on purpose. The statement does say there could be issues no matter which browser you use ad blockers with, but affected users confirm there is no slowdown when using Chrome.
How to stop the YouTube delay in Firefox
As such, one way to fix this issue in Firefox is to make YouTube think you’re using Chrome in the first place. You can use a process called user agent switching to effectively turn Firefox into Chrome when you need to.
One popular way to do this is by using the User-Agent Switcher and Manager add-on. Once installed, open the extension, then choose one of the Chrome versions listed and hit Refresh. The add-on switches your user agent to Chrome automatically, so you can browse sites like YouTube as if you were using Google’s browser instead. However, this add-on requires access to all data on each site you use it with, which is obviously not ideal from a privacy perspective.
A more secure way to switch your user-agent is to do so manually. To start, open a new tab, type about:config in the URL and hit Enter. Accept the warning pop-up, type general.useragent.override, hit String, then hit the (+). Now, open Chrome on your computer, place a search for “my user agent,” and copy and paste the results in the text field. Hit Enter once again, and your Firefox browser now appears like Chrome to the world wide web.
You can always revert back to Firefox by deleting the user agent preference you made here. Keep that in mind, since Firefox features, like the add-on site, will not work when you’re using a custom user agent.
uBlock Origin has a workaround
If you don’t want to bother with user agent switching, you can try this uBlock Origin workaround. Once you have uBlock Origin installed in your browser, open it, open Dashboard, then head to My filters. Paste the following into the field:
Now, hit Apply changes, and open YouTube in a new window to see if the delay is still present.
Of course, an alternative still is to disable ad blockers for YouTube, or subscribe to YouTube Premium, but if you’re reading this article, you likely don’t want to go down either of those paths.
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