Why do YouTube Views Count Freeze at 301?

If you’re a YouTube content publisher, you must’ve noticed this strange thing: Whenever you upload a video, it freezes at 301, or sometimes 302. And the number doesn’t increment until 24 hours. Why? Well, everybody thinks it’s a bug, or a conspiracy. But that’s not the real reason. The real reason is: It’s done intentionally, by Youtube systems.  According to Ted Hamilton, a product manager for YouTube analytics, YouTube freezes the view count at 301, to manually verify the authenticity of the views. Speaking with Numberphile host Brady Haran, Hamilton offered the elucidation in a video devoted to the mystery.

“We get asked about it all the time,” he said. “I wouldn’t say that it causes angst, but I would certainly classify it as an annoyance.” After a video reaches a certain number of views, which is either 301, or 302, Hamilton clarified, YouTube orders the database to halt the view count until YouTube can manually confirm the correct count to protect against bots — i.e. using automated services to falsely increment the number of views. YouTube view counts are originally traced by servers near the end user. By looking at log files (aka reports) from these individual servers, YouTube engineers can detect shady patterns in the data.

“At some point the decision was made that we need to draw a line between what is innocuous and the database can handle and all of a sudden serious business,” he said. “The proportion was calculated to be at about 300.” But why 301? Thank’s to a Youtube programmer’s stray less-than-or-equal-to sign. The code instructs the database to keep counting views up to and including the period when the count is equal to 300, allowing one final view to get counted before it freezes the view count.

“Whoever wrote this code probably did not realize the magnitude of what they were doing,” Hamilton said. “It is now one of the idiosyncrasies of YouTube.”

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