Which Viral Video Was So Popular YouTube Had To Change Their View Count Algorithm To Prevent An Integer Overflow?
Answer: Gangnam Style
Back in 2012, the music video for Korean rapper Psy’s Gangnam Style went viral and racked up a billion views over the next few months. Although the popularity of the video waned, it still continued to collect page views and soon hit two billion in mid 2014.
It was around that point that YouTube engineers realized they had a minor problem on their hands: they used 32-bit integers to store the page view values for videos. The largest positive number that can be represented by a 32-bit integer is 2,147,483,647. Once you have a value larger than that, you run into what is known as an integer overflow (a situation where an arithmetic operation attempts to create a numeric value that is outside of the range that can be represented within the available storage space). While that wouldn’t “break YouTube,” as was erroneously reported at the time, it would certainly break the view counter on popular videos like “Gangnam Style”.
As a result, they changed the view count representation from 32-bit to 64-bit, which allows for proper registration of a whopping 9,223,372,036,854,775,807 views. That’s 9 quintillion, a number so huge that in order for a viral video to break the 64-bit integer barrier, it would need to be approximately 3.34 billion times more popular than “Gangnam Style”.