Why are YouTube recommendations different across different devices?


I saw that somebody asked this question about 10 years ago, but in 2023 I’m noticing that the recommendations and search results I get on my phone tend to be very different than what I see on my computer.

In: 20

People usually have different patterns of watching things on their phones versus on their computers. So YouTube probably recommends videos with attention to how you’re watching them.

Let’s say you like to watch two things on YouTube. Long documentary style videos, and short little gag videos. You don’t watch the documentary style videos on your phone because you aren’t going to sit there with your phone in hand for that long.

YouTube has recognized that you only watch certain things on certain devices, and adjusted the recommendation algorithm accordingly. It will offer you stuff that you are likely to watch right now on whatever you’re using. The goal is to make you watch another video, and another, and another. That doesn’t work if it gives bad recommendations.

Others nailed it with the observed viewing patterns being different across devices. On 2 separate desktops, I get the same recommendations.

What I would like to discuss is why YouTube Shorts thinks <report>, <block channel user> means I need more videos just like that. Fuck those Andrew Tate supporting garbage channels and the random porn adverts that keep showing up because they use a popular song for the audio.

The purpose of the recommendations is to make you stay on the application as long as possible by serving you content that will make you want to click it. When you are on your phone, you are watching different content compared to your smart tv. You probably do not care for work-out videos on your computer, movies on your phone, or youtube shorts on your smart TV.

On the topic on how this is done, the websites have live access to your browser data such as type, version etc. They also have cookies, which track and save previously watched videos on your device. They also often have your account info, which can save details about your history across different devices. Together, this data can cobble together a tailored experience for you to stay on the app as long as possible and generate the most ad-revenue for the company.