How to play 4K videos from YouTube's homepage on a Mac

Google has made some changes to the way 4K videos are coded on its home page. YouTube uses the VP9 video coding format, while Apple's Safari web browser supports H.264. It's a quirky little change, of which AppleInsider goes into more detail. The basic gist is, Safari doesn't support VP9 and Google will only stream H.264 4K videos on YouTube's homepage.

So, why doesn't Apple just add VP9 support in Safari? You could argue about it for days. The simple truth is, we don't know why Apple doesn't add VP9 support in Safari, just like we don't know why Google removed support for H.264. But, since VP9 is open source and royalty free, it is likely that Apple wants to make sure that Safari is outfitted with a licensed official video compression standard.

There is no real choice, right now, for viewing 4K videos on YouTube's home page while using Safari. Hopefully, either Apple or Google will adopt the other's system, or a third-party developer will add a Safari extension that will allow us to play 4K video from YouTube's home page similar to the way Player for YouTube (opens in new tab) allows you to view YouTube videos with Flash.

For now, the only way you can watch 4K videos directly on YouTube's home page is by using another web browser that supports VP9, which are as follows.

You could also dual-boot Windows 10 onto your Mac and run the Microsoft Edge browser.

Lory Gil

Lory is a renaissance woman, writing news, reviews, and how-to guides for iMore. She also fancies herself a bit of a rock star in her town and spends too much time reading comic books.  If she's not typing away at her keyboard, you can probably find her at Disneyland or watching Star Wars (or both).

  • How an update to the VLC plugin to support VP9. Safari still doesn’t support Ogg Vorbis either but the VLC plugin allows playback. The VLC app has supported VP9 since version 2.2.1
  • The only cpus capable of hardware decoding VP9 are intel Kaby Lake of which there are zero macs running on. You can view 4K in an embedded web link but can't take it to full screen so it's google's fault here. Decoding videos on CPU is a huge step backwards for battery life.
  • Sounds like Google, just as Google Chrome as a browser is a huge step backwards for battery life
  • Then how can all Windows 10 machines do it, including ones not running Kaby Lake processors? Because it's completely misinformed propaganda. Can't, and can, but perhaps not well are far from the same thing.
  • Does this apply only to the YouTube homepage and not to videos on channel pages? If I visit a channel and click on certain videos uploaded on 4K, Safari seems to play them without a problem.