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How to Rip Videos From YouTube Without Third Party Applications

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I believe by now you have probably heard of the YouTube, the online free buffet of videos. YouTube is a motion picture view of the internet; a swirling nexus of music, stupidity, porn, and creations born of people with way too much time and way too little common sense. In short, it is truly beautiful, except for that one video with the guy doing that thing with that bottle. Your friends are sick people and believe that they can somehow undo the damage to their psyche by recruiting more people to their new, horrid existence. You seriously need to get new friends.

Even in this maelstrom of digital dookey you will find plenty of diamonds. Unfortunately, you can’t always be online and Google will find and delete trademarked or controversial content in their atlas-like task of holding back the digital tide of copyright infringement. How can you access the dramatic hamster when you’re on a plane and you NEED your fix. There are plenty of solutions that involve websites or down-loadable programs of varying legitimacy, but do you really want to risk the sanctity of your beloved computer? Or clog it up with more programs? This is especially important if you, like virtually everyone, are subjected to Micro$oft’$ Windoze.

There is another way, a simple little technique called a URL hack. All it requires is an internet browser and an internet connection. That’s pretty much it. I’ll show you how to quickly rip whatever you want from Google’s giant videorama, in a simple three step process.

Step 1: Point the Browser to the Video of Your Choosing

As an example I will be using “Rock the Casbah” by the Clash. URL stands for Uniform Resource Locator, its essentially a method for locating things on the internet and how to send it from one computer to another. URLs look like this: resource-type://domain:port/filepathname?query_string#anchor (although much of that string is optional). You’re more familiar than them than you might think, the URL bar is typically at the top of the website and thats where you would type in say, “” (in article advertising! Visit us we are lonely…). For “Rock the Casbah” the URL is: So go ahead and direct your browser to that, or to whatever video you want to download.

Step 2: Find the URL of the Video’s Location

Just as you point your browser to a URL to view it in YouTube; YouTube has a URL that directs it to the video that it will stream for you to watch. The principle of the URL hack is to circumvent the YouTube interface and grab the video at the location where YouTube stores them on their servers. Now that you have pointed your browser to the video you want you need to look at the actual code that composes the website you’re looking at. Different browsers have different ways of doing this, but you should be looking for something to the equivalent of “view source”. For example, in Firefox you go to View->Page Source in the upper menu, or just press ctrl+U.

Don’t be too intimidated by the voluminous code, we are only interested in one line. That line begins with the string video_id=. You can search through the whole file line by line, but you don’t have time for that, you need to grab as many of your favorite videos as you can before the fuzz takes ’em down. Your browser should have a “find” function, in most it should be activated by pressing ctrl+F. There should be only one occurrence of “video_id=, so find it then copy that string and everything until the ending semicolon. You should have something like this: video_id=OAkfHShATKY&l=215Deleted due to lack of space&title=The Clash – Rock The Casbah’, note how it ends with a title.

Step 3: Point and Reap

Now to download the video. Remember the URL we had above? We are going to alter it slightly to get the result we want. We’re going to replace the string watch with the string get_video and after the ? following it paste the string you copied. So you should have something like: Click enter. You may be prompted to decide whether to view or download the file. If so, choose “save as” and decide where you’re going to put your new video bundle of joy.

Final Point

You may notice that the video you downloaded is not playable with your video player. That’s because the file you downloaded is a .flv file, the type used in flash video that YouTube uses. Don’t worry though there is an easy fix for this! That fix is the blessed open-source media player known as VLC, and can be found at

You may be saying to yourself, (or possibly out loud if you’re not right in the head) “Jack, I thought you said that I wouldn’t need third party programs!” No, I said you wouldn’t need third party programs to download the video. Besides if your media player cannot play this, you probably need another one anyway. VLC has a wide reputation in the virtual metropolis for being able to play almost any video format, so you should be happy to download that anyway.


Written by jackofspades83

June 2, 2009 at 4:31 pm

Posted in Populist Geek

Tagged with , , , , , ,

One Response

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  1. You could also use the JW FLV Player or the Desktop player.

    I’ve used the FLV player for some web applications in the past.


    June 5, 2009 at 12:56 am

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