Watching one quick video during a workday isn’t too bad—the problem is that YouTube, like chip companies, go out of their way to make sure you can’t have just one. There’s autoplay, a sidebar full of video recommendations, and so many more features designed to get you to keep watching all day.
We’ve talked about how to avoid falling down a YouTube rabbithole in the past, but if those tips don’t go far enough, you can customize or even entirely replace the YouTube interface. These actions not only make it possible to hide all of those tantalizing features, they can also keep that adblocking warning from showing up to pester you.
[Related: 3 ways to avoid falling down a YouTube rabbit hole]
Untrapp: Remove clutter from YouTube
Untrapp is a free browser extension that lets you customize the YouTube user interface, allowing you to remove recommendations, comments, and more. To get started just install the extension—it’s free for Chrome and Firefox, while the Safari version costs $2. Install this extension and you can customize over 150 different things. For example: you can remove the recommended videos from showing up in the sidebar when you’re watching a video, or remove the comments from every video page. You can also set the YouTube homepage to be your subscriptions, instead of the algorithmic recommendations, allowing you to follow channels you want to watch instead of letting YouTube guess for you. You can blur thumbnails, you can disable UPPER CASE HEADLINES, and stop thumbnails from auto-playing when you hover your mouse over them.
Untrapp even lets the truly hooked set up a schedule to block YouTube at a particular time every day or block particular channels altogether. If you’re not comfortable with your YouTube habit, Untrapp is well worth checking out.
Invidious: Replace YouTube’s interface entirely
Invidious is an alternative user interface for YouTube. Basically, it’s a website you can visit to watch YouTube videos without having to spend any actual time on YouTube itself. The technology is open source and built to respect your privacy, meaning Google won’t be able to track which videos you’re watching. It also doesn’t have any ads.
There are a few downsides. Invidious is sometimes a little slower than YouTube, for example, and occasionally a video won’t work. You also can’t use Invidious with your YouTube account—it’s a completely different website. This means features like subscriptions, comments, and tracking watched videos won’t work. If you don’t care about that, though, Invidious could be a way to watch YouTube videos without letting YouTube get its hooks into you.
Invidious is a free service hosted on multiple servers. It’s recommended that you try a few severs out and then bookmark one that works well for you—simply use that bookmark instead of heading to YouTube. You can use a browser extension like Privacy Redirect to open all YouTube links in Invidious instead of the YouTube URL with all its distracting, attention-grabbing functions. Either way, you’ll have a much less habit-forming way to use YouTube.
Desktop players take things even further
VLC is one of the most popular video players on the planet, but did you know it can open YouTube videos? All you need to do is click File, then Open Network Stream, then paste the YouTube URL you want to play into the URL field and click Open. The YouTube video will play like any other video in VLC. You won’t see the sidebar, the comments, or any other feature of YouTube—just the video and the usual VLC playback controls.
That method works, but takes quite a few extra steps. If you’d like a much simpler desktop application for watching YouTube videos check out MiniTube, which costs 10 euros (roughly $11 USD) for Windows or macOS and is free for Linux users. This application, which offers a demo you can try for free, lets you browse YouTube in a beautiful desktop client without any ads, tracking, comments, or recommendations.
This is probably the nicest YouTube interface you can get on a desktop computer, which is great, but I also find it much easier to use to watch one video without being pushed to immediately gobble up another.