It happens to every newly viral video on YouTube. You can’t resist looking down at the comments, full of idiocy though they are, and somebody is asking, “How does this have over 500 likes but only 301 views?” Brady Haran of Numberphile paid a visit to Ted Hamilton of YouTube Analytics to get the answer, which was much more effective than our method of throwing 301 bricks through YouTube’s windows and hoping they’d eventually get it.
It comes down to a piece of code at YouTube. They decided they would need to verify the views on more popular videos to keep counterfeit views out of the official count. In the site’s infancy, they chose 300 views as the cut-off. When a video became more popular than 300 views, they’d begin a statistical verification process with batches of views cached at several servers.
But why does it usually freeze at 301 views, rather than 300, while that first batch of views from multiple servers is combined and verified? That comes down to a single piece of sloppy code: an equals sign where there didn’t need to be an equals sign. The code should have been written as “<300” but was written as “<=300”, meaning the view count would often freeze at 301 views.
The rather long video below provides Haran’s full explanation. The worst part of this video? It doesn’t have 301 views.