Lately, I’ve noticed that browsing YouTube on my desktop has become noticeably slow and sometimes unresponsive, like when I click play, it takes a second to start, and the same thing happens when I click pause.
If I try to skip a specific part of the video using the timeline, the player might freeze, and suddenly I find myself either going backward or skipping way ahead. These strange occurrences happen randomly and can be quite annoying.
So, I decided to investigate and find the source of the problem, especially since it primarily happens on YouTube.
To clarify, I’m specifically talking about using YouTube on a desktop computer or laptop through a web browser, not the YouTube app on mobile or iPad.
Naturally, the first thing I tried was switching from Safari to Chrome, then Firefox, but I didn’t notice any difference in responsiveness. I disabled all browser extensions, but it didn’t make much of a noticeable difference.
Then, I started exploring YouTube’s settings, disabling some features and trying different things, until I came across the “Ambient mode” feature. As soon as I disabled it, the performance improved significantly. Even the GPU load decreased noticeably.
Ambient mode takes colours from the video you’re watching and tries to blend them gradually into the background of the website. This processing is done live and continuously, causing additional strain on the device for something that isn’t mandatory to run the site. Especially when you have multiple tabs and programs open, the last thing you want is a feature that only adds aesthetics and puts pressure on your device.
On my MacBook, this feature doesn’t have a significant noticeable impact on YouTube’s performance and responsiveness. The same goes for my high-spec Windows desktop, which I use primarily for audio production, its specs are quite high-end, so this feature doesn’t seem to affect its performance clearly.
However, on my desktop Mac, which I use for daily browsing and regular tasks, and considering that this device stays on continuously with ok-ish specifications by today’s standards, I noticed that the Ambient mode feature has a significant and evident impact on the website’s responsiveness and video player control.
Please note that on a laptop, this feature increases battery consumption. So, if you plan to watch for a long time while running on battery, it’s wise to disable it even if it doesn’t have a negative impact on the website’s performance, as it can reduce battery usage.