YouTube has long been the premiere destination for online videos and is very likely to continue as such for the foreseeable future.
Ever since it was released to the world in 2005, YouTube has become one of the world’s most popular websites and one of the birthplaces of the creator generation. Today, YouTube has not only made it possible to spend days on end getting lost in the millions of hours of content uploaded each day, but also made it easy to tweak your YouTube experience through dozens of available settings.
Everything from changing your privacy settings to connecting different apps for earning gaming rewards or indicating if your video is suitable for children is just a click or two away. Let’s look at all the possible ways to change your YouTube settings and make it a more personalized experience for you.
What is YouTube?
In its most basic form, YouTube is a video-sharing and social media platform where people can watch, like, share, comment, and upload their own videos. Founded in 2005 by Chad Hurley, Steven Chen, and Jawed Karim, YouTube was rumored to have been developed as the three founders discovered there was no catch-all solution for uploading videos online they had captured after a dinner party. The more likely story per Karim is that he was unable to easily find clips of the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami and the rest, as they say, is history.
YouTube videos can be accessed just about anywhere online including smartphones, tablets, televisions, and computers. Consistently in the top five websites based on total internet traffic, YouTube is often at the top of the free downloads for both the App Store and Play Store. YouTube is also the place where many stars have been discovered with one of the most famous examples being Justin Bieber who was discovered through videos he posted of himself singing online.
What YouTube Does
YouTube has long been a place where creators can upload videos of themselves going on vacation, unboxing their favorite tech products, as well as documenting themselves celebrating a victory at their favorite sports event. When someone asks what YouTube does, the answer should be something along the lines of driving conversation, helping provide people with information on a topic, or moving people to take action by showing them how to build their own service, product, or channel.
If a YouTube channel can drive people to action, no matter what type of action that may be, it’s a win for all of YouTube. For example, if you watch a YouTube video of someone taking a trip to Disney World, you might want to follow their same itinerary or stay at the same hotel because of the activities you saw them partake in during their YouTube video.
How People Use YouTube
YouTube’s activity is based on two different types of people. The first is video viewers, and this is the group that uses YouTube one directionally to consume, interact, and subscribe to their favorite channels or creators. The second group that uses YouTube is creators, and this group is responsible for the day-to-day content that is posted on YouTube and uploaded to their channels. Both groups can like, comment, and share other YouTube videos as well as subscribe to their favorite creators or even create a playlist for organizing their favorite videos for later viewing.
Another primary example of how people use YouTube is to convey some type of branding message. Just as the Disney World YouTuber above can drive people to book a hotel or take a trip, a brand, like Nike, might drive you to pick up a shoe by creating an engaging video that attracts millions of views. The best part is that you don’t need a huge budget or expensive camera equipment to make a great video.
No matter why you use YouTube, you have the option of changing a multitude of settings to personalize the experience.
The most general of all of YouTube’s various settings that you can change, Account Settings is a combination of options that impact your channel as well as your overall Google account. The most general setting within your Account Settings is your Channel Status and Features, which enables you to choose the level of features you want to utilize from YouTube.
The higher the feature level you request, the more features are unlocked by YouTube like live streaming, uploading videos over 15 minutes, custom thumbnails — and the big one — video monetization eligibility.
You can also do things within these settings like transition your channel to a brand account or delete your channel altogether. In addition, this setting is where you grab a copy of your User and Channel identification which, among other use cases, is best known for being integrated with YouTube analytics or YouTube API services. You can also update any memberships you have within YouTube like YouTube Premium.
Learn more about changing your Account Settings with our full guide here.
Whether you are a YouTube viewer or creator, there’s a good chance you have at least one notification setting enabled. This might be for something along the lines of receiving an alert when your favorite creator posts a video or a creator might have a notification if someone shares their content on another channel.
Within this menu setting on YouTube.com or on your mobile devices, there are plenty of notification options available. General notifications include mobile and desktop notifications around subscriptions, recommended videos, someone replying to a comment you have posted, or if someone has mentioned you on their channel.
Email notifications are a little different and you can enable notifications around general updates to YouTube as a platform, email updates about YouTube Premium, or for creators, product announcements and creator events that might be of interest.
You can read all about changing your notification settings on YouTube through our full guide here.
Playback and Performance Settings
When it comes to Playback and performance settings, this is all about the quality of the videos you are watching on YouTube regardless of whether it’s on a computer browser or a mobile device. Of course, there’s an X factor here in that YouTube can only control so much depending on how a video was uploaded by a creator quality-wise. If a creator only adds a video to their channel in 720p, don’t expect YouTube to upscale to 4K quality. However, you can make some changes to help make sure you are getting the best possible quality.
Within Playback and performance, you will find options like the AV1 settings which offer you a choice of Auto quality, which is recommended by YouTube as videos will default to their best possible setting. If you choose Prefer AV1 for SD, videos will only stream up to 480p which is great for data saving, or choose Always prefer AV1 and YouTube will force any video that can stream in HD to do so.
Similar options can be changed on the Android and iOS apps allowing you to adjust the quality for all videos or choose to adjust individual video settings on both desktop and mobile.
You can read all about changing your Playback and performance settings with our handy YouTube guide here.
As is the case with most popular websites, social media sites in particular, privacy settings have big visibility, and YouTube is no different.
This setting has a two-prong approach, the first of which is within YouTube directly. Inside these settings, you have the option of keeping all of your playlists private so nobody can see the videos you have saved. The second setting is to keep all of your subscriptions private so they are not visible to anyone else. Both of these settings can be toggled on or off at will.
The bigger privacy settings for YouTube are focused more on your general Google account and can be managed at Google’s My Ad Center. It’s here where you can adjust and tweak the settings to better personalize or de-personalize the level of customized ads you receive through YouTube (as well as Google Search). My Ad Center gives you the opportunity to remove any identifying info like your age, gender, language, marital status, education level, household income, or employer information, all of which are used by Google to build personalized ads. Enable these categories if you want ads that are more relevant to you or disable them to receive more general focus ads.
Learn more about YouTube and Google’s Privacy settings through our full guide here.
Connected Apps Settings
Connected apps on YouTube are a bit of an anomaly as most people, especially non-gamers, have no idea this unique settings option exists. Essentially, Connected apps are apps that have partnered with YouTube to provide rewards to viewers who watch specific pieces of content. This generally focuses on live streams and works in tandem with partners like Epic Games, Activision, Battle.net, PUBG, Riot Games, Supercell, and Ubisoft.
Assuming you are watching through m.youtube.com (mobile version), YouTube.com or through a smartphone, tablet, or web browser, you are eligible to win various prizes just by watching.
For example, in October 2022, Overwatch League connected through YouTube and Battle.net to provide in-game rewards for OWL tokens for anyone watching the live stream. Overwatch even gave up to 100 extra tokens to anyone who watched a cumulative amount of 30 hours of the live-streamed tournament.
Learn all about Connect apps and the various prizes by reading through our full guide here.
Billing and Payment Settings
When it comes to billing and payments settings, YouTube makes sure that you have the option to easily control your payment method.
Your chosen payment or billing method comes in handy if you are subscribed to YouTube Premium, paying for a premium movie YouTube is offering, or if you want to donate to a YouTuber. Anyone who wants to add a payment method to their YouTube account can easily do so using any credit or debit card. You even have the option of enabling Quick Purchase so you don’t have to constantly verify your identity to make a purchase but it is a good setting to have available for parents.
Managing payment methods works great on YouTube.com or through Android devices but users of the iPhone or iPad will have to manage all payments through Apple’s App Store. There is no way to purchase directly from YouTube with Apple unless you are doing so from a desktop browser. Android users can manage the payment methods through their Google Pay account which is available to anyone with a Gmail address.
Controlling your Advanced Settings on YouTube can be critical for both viewers and YouTubers alike. For YouTubers in particular, advanced settings can be helpful in making important adjustments to your channel like determining if your videos are okay for kids. These settings are available in two places with the first being within YouTube’s dedicated Settings menu, which is the same location you would use to locate your User or Channel ID. The second place to manage Advanced Settings is within YouTube Studio which is more creator-focused.
Once you are in YouTube Studio and more specifically the Advanced settings functions, it’s here you can determine if your channel or videos are appropriate for kids. You can also make updates so you don’t show any inappropriate words as part of automatic closed-captioning, disable interest-based ads, allow viewers to clip 5-60 second portions of your videos for social sharing, or remove your YouTube account altogether. The most important setting is the one around interest-based ads which, if disabled, can have a significant negative impact on ad revenue.
To learn more about Advanced Settings, you can read more with our handy guide available here.