Future Tense

So Many People Watched “Gangnam Style” That YouTube Had to Upgrade Its View Counter

In November 2012, when “Gangnam Style” overtook Justin Beiber’s “Baby” as the most popular video on YouTube, Psy’s hit had about 800 million views. Looking back, that seems like chump change: The video now has 2.15 billion views.

In fact, that view number has gotten so astronomical that it broke the counter and Google had to build a new one. “We never thought a video would be watched in numbers greater than a 32-bit integer (=2,147,483,647 views), but that was before we met PSY,” YouTube wrote in a post on its Google Plus page.

Google’s old counter could display integers up to 2^31 - 1 or 2,147,483,647. Which probably seemed like plenty whenever it was set up! It couldn’t reach 2^32-1 or 4,294,967,296 because one bit was being used to toggle between negative and positive numbers. But since you can’t have a negative view count anyway, the system was clearly due for an overhaul.

“Gangnam Style’s” views keep rising, and Google has even added an Easter egg to the video’s counter, if you hover over it. It’s a brave new world of 64-bit integer view counts.