Difference Between YouTube and YouTu.be URLs

We all use YouTube to watch our favorite videos. Many of us also upload videos on YouTube, the world’s best and most popular video sharing platform. While watching, uploading and sharing videos we all come across the YouTube.com URLs — but we are sure that you must have seen Youtu.be URLs as well. Have you ever wondered what exactly is the difference between YouTube and Youtu.be URLs? A reader sent us a query on this matter after reading our recent article on creating links to specific time in a YT video. Pretty good and interesting question! Let’s explore the answer!

First of all the basic difference:

  • YouTube.com is the top-level domain name (TLD). This is the original domain name for the YouTube service.
  • YouTu.be is a country code TLD (aka ccTLD). The .be domain name have been assigned to the country of Belgium.

.com, .org, .net are the most common domain names. As .com signifies a domain name for a commercial entity, the YouTube founders originally chose YouTube.com for their video sharing service. This domain name was registered on 14 February 2005.

In 2006, Google acquired YouTube and in 2009, Google launched the YouTu.be domain name. Here .be stands for Belgium. Although .be is ccTLD of Belgium but there is no rule that bars non-Belgian entities to register a .be domain name. So, Google did register this .be domain name for global purpose. ccTLDs can be registered by anybody in the world and for any purpose. In a number of instances, ccTLDs are registered for a different purpose than to signify the country name. In case of YouTu.be, Google did a play of letters. Similarly, a number of television related websites have .tv domain name. But .tv domain name does not signify television! In fact, it has nothing to do with television. .tv is the ccTLD for the country of Tuvalu.

But why did Google Create YouTu.be?

In 2009, Google registered YouTu.be as a way of shortening the YouTube URLs. At that time the micro-blogging websites (especially Twitter) were becoming popular. These websites allow people to post messages composed in small number of characters. For example, Twitter allows one post to contain a maximum of 140 characters. Therefore it was important to shorten the YouTube URLs as much as possible so that people can easily share them on popular websites like Twitter.

By launching YouTu.be domain name, Google cut short the URL of a video by 15 characters. Take a look at the following illustration. It demonstrates how a YouTu.be URL is 15 characters shorter than the equivalent YouTube.com URL.

an example of difference between youtube.com and youtu.be URLs

Google could further shorten the YouTube URLs if they could reduce the number of characters in video ID (the LIgRmdJMgl4 part in the above illustration). But, as you know, YouTube is a massive video sharing platform. To uniquely identify each video, Google needs an ID with a sufficiently large number of characters. So, Google can not compromise on this part. But by creating YouTu.be domain name, Google smartly saved 15 characters. Twitter loving people would easily understand the importance of this saving!

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6 thoughts on “Difference Between YouTube and YouTu.be URLs”

  1. I don’t know that much about this but I do know that when we posted a link using youtu.be (on facebook group page), there was no thumbnail. When we posted the same link but with youtube we got a thumnbail with the video…

  2. I wonder if someone could exploit a subtle difference in a URL to misdirect someone to a malicious site. I’ve gotten in the habit of not opening anything even remotely suspicious,

  3. It appears to me that the “watch?v=” is needed in the youtube.com TLD , because it’s the general domain name, with extensions not only to individual videos, but also to ‘channel pages’, and service pages of al kind. Omitting “watch?v=” would not refer to an individual video anymore but conflict into the URL systematic builtup for all different kinds of pages that exist.
    youtu.be however, has a different ‘syntax’. It only leads to individual videos (redirecting into the youtube.com URLs) , and no access to other website pages whatsoever.
    Makes logic, isn’t it ?

  4. It’s only 2 characters they save with the youtu.be domain name, they could not use the www and watch?v= for youtube.com also, not a big difference in the domain name number of characters.

    1. No, they couldn’t. For example if a video has the ID “account” it would conflict with the page youtube.com/account which is the settings page. Just registering a new URL that automatically redirects to the video is much easier.

  5. Thanks for the explanation. However, what’s wrong with The “www” isn’t actually necessary, and if they were to drop the requirement for “watch?v=” a total of 12 characters (15 x 80%) would already be saved without any change of domain.

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