Is this Google’s way of getting users to switch to Chrome? If it is, it seems to be unintentional, at least that’s according to a recent thread on Reddit in which there is an ongoing discussion about this issue. According to the posts, it seems that many believe that this could be due to Google’s decision to use the open and royalty-free VP9 codec instead of the H.264 codec which Safari uses.
It should also be noted that this seems to only affect videos uploaded after the 6th of December, 2016. This means that if you’re watching videos uploaded before that date, 4K will still be an option. It also seems to only affect videos watched directly from YouTube’s website as embedded videos don’t seem to be affected.
Going to YouTube’s website in Chrome seems to have no issue with this, but like we said it seems to have been unintentional. The onus now appears to have fallen onto Apple to adopt the new codec since we doubt Google will be making the change just for Apple. In a statement made to AppleInsider from a rep from Apple corporate, “We haven’t supported VP9 in Safari. [Google] has seemingly made a conscious decision to not stream H.264 4K video to Apple users from the YouTube homepage, when it clearly could if it chose to.”