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What's Wrong with YouTube

Please don't use YouTube as the place to post videos of my talks, and please don't cite YouTube for that purpose. If the talk is available in audio-video.gnu.org, please cite that site.

As of 2019 there is free software that permits access to YouTube from some browsers. It is an add-on which is preinstalled in the GNU browser, IceCat, and can be loaded into Firefox. As a result of this, posting videos on YouTube does not at the moment put them off limits to the free world.

However, we cannot count on this to keep working. The add-on already broke once this year. This time, a corrected add-on was released after a few weeks. Next time, who knows? Thus, posting on YouTube is a fragile solution.

In addition, most people will watch YouTube by running the nonfree software that Google sends to users. Let's not encourage people to do that.

As of mid-July, 2019, the add-on works for vimeo.com, but not for most other sites.

What else Was Wrong with YouTube

These were the problems with YouTube as a place to post videos or refer to videos.

One thing about YouTube that is not a moral strike against it is nonfree software on YouTube servers — if there is any. We as possible users of YouTube can't tell whether the servers run any nonfree software, because that has no effect on us — therefore it doesn't do any wrong to us.

If there are any nonfree programs running on YouTube servers, they mistreat Google by denying Google control of that aspect of its computing. We hope that Google will reclaim its freedom by ceasing to use those nonfree programs, if any. But those programs do not mistreat the users of YouTube, so they are not a reason to refuse to use that service.

It is also possible that all the software running on YouTube servers is free—either published free software or private unreleased free software.


To post a video without requiring nonfree software to view it, you can place the video as an Ogg Theora or WebM file on an ordinary web site. If you are concerned there will be a lot of download traffic, you can seed a torrent and suggest people download through that.

Another way to publish videos on the web using free software is GNU MediaGoblin. Ideally you will set up your own server, or run one for your family and friends, but you can also post on public servers.

Please contribute to GNU MediaGoblin if you can.

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