Invidious: An Ethical, Privacy-Respecting Alternative to YouTube

YouTube is the world’s largest and most popular online video platform, with over 2 billion monthly active users. However, many privacy and ethics concerns have been raised about YouTube over the years. From excessive data collection and ad tracking to spreading misinformation and objectionable content, YouTube has faced growing backlash for its operations. This has led many users to seek out alternatives that better respect their privacy and align with their values. One such alternative is Invidious.

What is Invidious?

Invidious is an open-source project created as an alternative front-end to YouTube. It allows users to watch YouTube videos with increased privacy, security, and ethical standards.

The key features and benefits of Invidious include:

  • No ads or tracking: Invidious has no ads, so users don’t have their data collected for targeted advertising. It also blocks other tracking like cookies and fingerprints.
  • Lightweight and fast: The interface is clean and minimal, optimized for speed and performance. Videos start playing instantly.
  • Open source: Invidious is open-source software licensed under GPLv3. Its code is publicly auditable, which promotes transparency.
  • User control: Users can opt out of data collection and choose from different available instances. This puts the user in control of their privacy.
  • Video recommendation system: Recommendations are based only on the current video, not a complex profile of your interests and watch history. This prevents the “rabbit hole” effect of YouTube’s algorithm.
  • RSS feeds: Users can subscribe to RSS feeds of channels, playlists, or searches to follow new videos. This replaces notifications and allows users to consume content on their terms.
  • No censorship: Invidious is not restricted by regional filters or platform rules on content. Videos blocked in certain countries are available.
  • Ethical standards: By not collecting user data for ads, not driving excessive watch time, and respecting freedoms, Invidious aligns with ethical ideals like privacy and transparency.

In summary, Invidious offers an ethical alternative frontend to access YouTube content with enhanced privacy. It aims to give control back to the users.

How Invidious Works

Invidious is not a separate video platform. Rather, it is an intermediary interface that retrieves YouTube content on the user’s behalf. This section covers some technical details on how Invidious functions.

  • Invidious uses the YouTube API and scrapes YouTube pages to obtain video information. It does not upload or host any video content on its own servers.
  • When a user searches for a video, Invidious queries the YouTube API and returns the results to the user.
  • The video itself is streamed directly from YouTube’s servers to the user. Invidious simply provides an embedded player to display the content.
  • Invidious instances cache some data like video metadata to optimize performance. But videos streamed always come directly from YouTube.
  • Many Invidious “instances” or websites exist, run by different maintainers. Each acts as a separate portal to YouTube’s content.
  • Instances can choose which information to collect from users, ranging from none to basic access logs. Data is kept decentralized.
  • Browser extensions like Redirector automatically redirect YouTube links to Invidious instances, providing a seamless switching experience.

This architecture means Invidious provides an ethical “front-end” to access YouTube while YouTube still hosts the content itself. Invidious simply shields users from much of YouTube’s tracking and data collection.

Setting Up Invidious

Since Invidious consists of independently maintained community instances, getting started requires selecting one and creating an account if you want. Here are the steps:

1. Pick an Instance

No official Invidious site exists. You must select an instance run by volunteers. Some popular choices include:

  • https://invidious.kavin.rocks
  • https://yewtu.be
  • https://invidious.snopyta.org
  • https://invidious.namazso.eu
  • https://invidious.zee.li

Evaluate reputation, uptime, location, features, and philosophy when choosing.

2. Create an Account (Optional)

Some instances let you register an account to save preferences. This is optional – you can use Invidious without one. But it provides benefits like:

  • Saving video upload subscriptions
  • Saving preferences like video quality
  • Bookmarking videos

Register an account on your chosen instance if desired.

3. Install Browser Extensions

Browser extensions like Redirector can seamlessly redirect YouTube links to Invidious. This makes using Invidious feel natural without changing habits much.

Some recommended extensions:

  • Redirector – Redirects YouTube links to Invidious automatically. Works across browsers.
  • Invidition – An alternative automatic redirector for Chrome and Firefox.
  • Invidious Redirect – Another redirector for Firefox.

Install an extension that suits your browsing habits and preferences.

With the instance, account, and extensions set up, you are ready to use Invidious on a daily basis.

Using Invidious as an Alternative to YouTube

Once Invidious is set up, using it as an alternative to YouTube is simple. All the main features like searching, subscriptions, and playlists work similarly to YouTube:

  • Search – Use the search bar to find videos just like YouTube. Invidious retrieves results through the YouTube API.
  • Video playback – The video playback interface is the same as YouTube, with options like resolution. Videos stream from YouTube’s servers.
  • Channels and subscriptions – Users can subscribe to channels and see the latest uploaded videos. RSS feeds make this easy.
  • Playlists and history – Registered users can create playlists and access watch history. No recommendations are shown based on this.
  • Community posts – Posts by creators on the community tab are shown but without engagement metrics displayed.
  • Comments – Depending on the instance, comments may be shown. But their moderation depends on instance admins.
  • Limited profile – User profiles on Invidious are minimal without stats and activity. Creators can optionally link other social profiles.
  • Dark mode – Most instances offer a toggle for dark mode to change the interface design.

The main difference in experience is the lack of personalized recommendations, notifications, and emphasis on driving engagement. The focus is simply on accessing and enjoying content.

Invidious provides a good YouTube alternative for many core uses, like watching videos, listening to music, and discovering new creators. Privacy, ethics, and control advantages outweigh the lost proprietary features.

Privacy and Ethical Benefits of Invidious

Invidious privacy and an ethics-friendly approach change many aspects of the user experience compared to YouTube. Some of the key improvements include:

Limited Data Collection

Instances collect little to no personal information about users by default. YouTube profiles, watch history, and digital fingerprints are avoided. The only data logged in some instances are basic access logs without unique identifiers.

No Advertising or Tracking

YouTube runs vast digital advertising and recommendation engines to monetize users. Invidious shows no ads and engages in no ad-driven data collection or profiling. Users are just customers to be served, not products to be sold.

Open Source Code and Transparency

As open-source software, Invidious’ codebase is visible to all. Bugs can be found, vulnerabilities disclosed, improvements contributed, and forks created. This transparency exceeds closed proprietary platforms like YouTube.

User Control of Instances

Users choose which Invidious instance to use based on reputation and policies. Bad instances can be abandoned. This decentralization and competition puts users in control of their privacy and experience.

Focus Just on Content

Without personalized feeds and engagement-driving algorithms, Invidious focuses purely on content. Videos are just videos, not pieces in an addiction and data extraction machine. This returns agency to the user.

Avoiding the “Rabbit Hole” Effect

YouTube’s algorithms often drive users down rabbit holes of extreme, conspiratorial, or emotionally charged content. Invidious avoids this by not creating a tailored, persuasive feed.

Adherence to Community Guidelines

Instances allow all legal content and abstain from censorship, unlike YouTube, which enforces its community standards inconsistently. Users decide what is objectionable.

Invidious provides a more ethical user experience aligned with privacy values through features like these. It offers an alternative for users who prioritize these factors.

Limitations and Concerns with Invidious

However, some downsides and limitations still exist with Invidious to consider:

  • No official app: Mobile apps for Invidious must be acquired from third parties. Quality varies, and their availability is uncertain.
  • Missing YouTube features: Proprietary YouTube features like comments, live chat, channel memberships, merch, notifications, and others are unavailable.
  • Uncertain reliability: Uptime and performance of smaller instances vary. And instances can shut down anytime.
  • Decentralized moderation: Policy and moderation is decided per instance. Some content banned on YouTube may appear.
  • Circumvention of YouTube’s policies: YouTube may attempt to block known Invidious instances, seeing it as a policy violation.
  • No revenue for creators: Alternative monetization, like donations or merchandise, may be needed by creators without ad revenue.
  • Limited appeal: The average YouTube user may find Invidious too limited or sparse without familiar features and algorithms.

While Invidious solves many of YouTube’s ethical issues, it currently can’t replicate the full YouTube experience. Users must weigh up what matters most to them when choosing a platform.

The Future Possibilities for Invidious

In its current form, Invidious provides a lightweight and privacy-respecting alternative interface to access YouTube. But its decentralized community-driven nature also opens up possibilities for deeper innovation and autonomy.

Developer talent – The open-source community can improve Invidious with new features, bug fixes, and integrations at a faster pace than YouTube. Talented coders can shape its direction.

Technical censorship resistance – Blocking Invidious may prove difficult if new instances keep appearing. Code changes can also bypass restrictions. The flexibility of open source favors users’ access to information.

Integration with video hosting – If coupled with alternative video platforms like Peertube, Invidious could form the basis of a fully separate video network. This may establish genuine competition with YouTube.

Monetization innovation – Creators can experiment with novel monetization like cooperatives and micropayments to replace ads. Invidious enables innovation in funding models.

A platform controlled by its community and not a corporation may take forms and enable possibilities impossible under YouTube. Invidious shows a pathway to putting users before profit and ethics before algorithms.

Conclusion

YouTube has come under increasing criticism for its privacy violations, unethical algorithms, and anticompetitive monopolization. Invidious presents an open and ethical alternative for accessing YouTube content. It respects user privacy, focuses just on content, and avoids an addictive and manipulative experience.

While some limitations exist given YouTube’s propriety nature, Invidious nonetheless provides a lighter, community-driven, and more virtue-aligned front-end option. At its core, Invidious is about reimagining how a video platform can operate for the benefit of users and society. Its open-source nature and decentralization enable innovation in features, governance, and funding models.

Invidious may offer the right alternative for users who value ideals like privacy, freedom of information, and community control over corporate profit. While it can’t replicate the full YouTube ecosystem yet, its developer-driven growth and autonomy make it worth watching. Ultimately, Invidious represents a path where technology platforms respect, not exploit, users.

List of public Invidious Instances (sorted from oldest to newest):

Tor Onion Services:

I2P Eepsites:

References

Free Software Foundation. (2007). What is free software? https://www.fsf.org/about/what-is-free-software

Fuchs, C. (2021). YouTube: The New Corporate Media Hegemony. International Journal of Communication, 15(2021), 2419โ€“2441. https://ijoc.org/index.php/ijoc/article/view/16086

Invidious Instances. (n.d.). Invidious Instances. https://instances.invidio.us/

MacCormick, J. (2020, October 29). An open letter to YouTube. The Verge. https://www.theverge.com/2020/10/29/21540813/open-letter-youtube-creators-ethics-business-model-criticism

Redirector. (n.d.). Redirector – Redirect YouTube to alternative frontends. https://github.com/SimonBrazell/redirector

Rey, A. (2019, June 4). I launched Invidious in 2018 to protect user privacy and freedom. yewtu.be. https://yewtu.be/@invidious/what-is-invidious

Stokel-Walker, C. (2020, October 1). YouTube’s Plot to Silence Conspiracy Theories. Wired UK. https://www.wired.co.uk/article/youtube-algorithm-silicon-valley-documentary

"Because of the Google update, I, like many other blogs, lost a lot of traffic."

Join the Newsletter

Please, subscribe to get our latest content by email.

Mohamed SAKHRI
Mohamed SAKHRI

I'm the creator and editor-in-chief of Tech To Geek. Through this little blog, I share with you my passion for technology. I specialize in various operating systems such as Windows, Linux, macOS, and Android, focusing on providing practical and valuable guides.

Articles: 1414

Newsletter Updates

Enter your email address below and subscribe to our newsletter

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *