YouTube Without YouTube

When I think of websites plagued by the unforunate trends of the modern web, few are as exemplary in this respect as YouTube. What was once a bastion of hobbyist and down-to-earth content has since turned into a sanitized corporate facade. I was actually relatively oblivious to this trend for some time, because I, unlike most users, used almost exclusively the subscription feed for finding videos. I had cultivated a sizable collection of channels I actually enjoyed watching; I found no reason to venture into the unknown waters of the recommended section. Some time ago, I decided to open YouTube in a private window, which allows you to view a website without any of your past viewing history or account information to factor into recommendations. What I saw was a homepage littered with late night clips, regrettable reaction videos, and what can only be described as unholy aggregations of saturated colors to attract a younger audience. This was not the YouTube I knew before I had taken refuge in the Plato's Cave that was my subscription feed. This was also when I had discovered GNU / Linux, free software, and the shady practices of modern tech companies. I determined it infeasible to continue using youtube.com in the longterm, and so I embarked on a journey to find alternatives.

The Alternative Websites

I'll just cut to the chase - LBRY and PeerTube wouldn't work for me in the long term. One of the reasons I disliked youtube.com was the user interface - too much pointing, clicking, and general annoyances of stupid GUI software. LBRY and PeerTube are interesting alternatives in terms of privacy, decentralization, and other buzzwords, but I was looking for a way to enjoy videos efficiently. Also, neither Odysee nor any PeerTube instance have enough content for me to use either exclusively as a GUI interface, so in reality I would have to use 2 or 3 different GUIs to watch content! That would not be an improvement. Around this time, I started learning about and using the Linux terminal. This is where I would find my solution.

RSS, Newsboat, and MPV

This is how I consume content now. In short, I have migrated all my subscriptions to RSS feeds. I view them all in Newsboat, a CLI RSS reader. Newsboat has sensible keybindings and (most importantly) macro support. I have defined macros that allow me to open a YouTube RSS link using MPV, a highly configurable media player. With a relatively small amount of key presses, I can easily traverse all my subscriptions.

For those that are interested in replicating this setup, I'll point you to this site. It explains how to setup the Newsboat macros to open videos in MPV, rather than your web browser.

Best of all, this setup works seemlessly with other video sites, including Odysee and PeerTube instances, but also anything that uses RSS. RSS has seen better days, but plenty of sources of content still use it.