YouTube has just announced that it’s time for an upgrade (via a link to Google+, which could not possibly ever go stale). It seems that the ridiculously popular video for pop artist Psy’s song “Gangnam Style” has been viewed so many times that YouTube’s counter couldn’t keep up.
The technically-educated out there may already understand the problem, but for the rest, the basic issue is that computers don’t really grasp the concept of infinity.1 Instead, computers track numbers in ways which are only practically limitless, not actually. YouTube’s old counter used a 32-bit signed integer, which meant that it couldn’t count any higher than 2,147,483,647. YouTube figured that would be enough, but Psy has proven them wrong. YouTube has now upgraded the counter to a 64-bit signed integer, which means we’re set until a viral video gets over 9.2 quintillion views (specifically, the new counter will break at the 9,223,372,036,854,775,808th viewing). As long as the machines don’t start speed-watching videos on their own, we should now be safe.
Then again, who does? ↩︎