This post enumerates several ways you might want to consume content on YouTube (YT) without using any of YT’s platforms.
Why the alternative
YT’s platforms require a lot of system’s resources, including heavy power consumption. As a consequence, this decreases the lifespan of your electronics, especially when used regularly.
Even if you’re the casual consumer,1 the alternatives provide better experience.
- No ads (not counting the in-video ones included by the creator, but those you can skip)
- Quicker loading times
- Free and open source software (FOSS)
- No way of interaction; you cannot like or comment on a video, only read others’ comments.
- By skipping the ads, you take away a possible revenue of the channel. If you want to support the channel, check if they have other ways receiving it.
With Graphical User Interface (GUI)
For many people, GUIs are the way they interact with their computer.
The following recommendations involve little to no effort in setting up.
Youtube.com (Web, preferably in a privacy-respecting browser)
Check these browser add-ons that will improve your watching experience.
- Use Ad Blocker. Ads are annoying and insidious. There are lots of tools and methods to avoid them.2 We recommend uBlock Origin (https://ublockorigin.com).
- Use SponsorBlock (https://sponsor.ajay.app), which is an open-source, crowd-sourced extension for skipping in-video sponsor segments. Consider contributing the community by sending segments (time stamps).
Invidious (Web, preferably in a privacy-respecting browser)
Invidious is an alternative front-end to YT. The original instance https://invidio.us has shut down since 1 Sep 2020. That link will show you other Invidious instances that have sprouted in the time since. The orignal author of the code, Omar Roth, decided to step away from open source.3
Any instance with a health of 100 usually works, but your experience may differ. You may have to jump from one instance to another and see which one works best.
Freetube (Desktop client; Linux, macOS, Windows)
Freetube (https://freetubeapp.io) is another YT client you can download on your computer, with the intention of it being more private. It will be a familiar experience, similar to the web application.
NewPipe (mobile: Android)
NewPipe (https://newpipe.net) is a lightweight YT experience for Android. Many fans say it’s the gold standard for a FOSS: it is, in many fronts, better than the original.
Among its features, it allows you to download video directly from the app. You can also download audio only for any music or podcasts that are on YT.
The app is available both on their site and on F-Droid (https://f-droid.org)
Using Command Line Interface (CLI)
The next few are aimed mostly at the Unix-like OS.
Any CLI programs accept text input (in a terminal emulator or command prompt) to execute some functions. You will have to type a few commands to bring up a video.
Many of them have good documentations, so setting up shouldn’t be hard.
yt-dlp (macOS, BSD, Linux, Windows)
yt-dlp (https://github.com/yt-dlp/yt-dlp) is a command-line program to download videos from YT and a few more sites.
The first rule of
yt-dlp is to never not talk about
Since it requires a Python interpreter, make sure that your computer has one. If you’re on any Unix-like OS, it most likely has.
Just to be sure, type in your terminal:
It should output something like:
/usr/bin/python indicating that it exists in that directory.
Or you could type:
It should output someting like
Python 2.7.16 indicating that it does exist in that current version.
If in any case it outputs a blank line, you might need to download it from python.org
yt-dlp’s official documentation has detailed instructions in installing it in whatever platform you have.
To start downloading YT videos, open your terminal emulator and enter:
where URL is the actual YT link of the video that you can copy from your browser and directly paste4 it on the terminal.
Using MPV or VLC
You can also stream YT videos in your terminal using the video players. Download either into your computer and start using them for consuming YT.
In your terminal, type
mpv URL or
Wait for the video to load. It should spawn a new window for your video player.
I personally recommend MPV, because it’s more lightweight, but last I checked, it should work on either. Sometimes, MPV will output an error, and this could be because the video format is currently not supported.
If that happens, you can try putting an option to stream MP4 format instead. MP4 is widely supported and has large hardware and software support. Still in your terminal, enter:
mpv --ytdl-format=MP4 URL
Failing that, try streaming with VLC.
There are a few more YT clients out there that I have not included here, because I have no experience in using them.
Among the above, I equally like NewPipe and youtube-dl, because it lets me download quality videos (and audios) using the least amount of effort and share them freely in the wild.
Unless you’re using YT for educational purposes, please don’t spend hours binge-watching random videos on YT, or anywhere in the internet, really. ↩︎
Roth, O. (2020, August 1). Stepping away from open source. Omar Roth. https://omar.yt/posts/stepping-away-from-open-source ↩︎
Most modern terminal emulators in Unix-like OS supports direct pasting from clipboard, that is, it recognizes
Ctrl + vas Paste. If that doesn’t work, though, try pasting with
Shift + Insert. ↩︎