Programming to the rescue – saving my YouTube favorites

During a recent visit to I was prompted with the question whether I want to have a YouTube channel (which longtime users have by default) or if I wanted it removed. With 14 days until the channel would be removed automatically I’d normally just postpone the decision and carry on browsing but this time my mind was pretty much made up: as I only use my YouTube account for favorites I really don’t need a channel – so that was the answer I selected.

Sadly what followed wasn’t what I expected. While subscriptions remain available, all features related to playlists aren’t accessible anymore – including my highly valued list of favorites collected since early YouTube days. Every way of accessing them and several other features leads to the following prompt:

So in summary if I want to access a lot of the features I had before making the fatal decision I would have to create a public YouTube channel and also a Google+ profile. Obviously this is a smart move on Google’s side but at the same time it’s incredibly annoying and also difficult to understand why a basic feature like favorites requires having a channel and Google+ profile.

That wasn’t an option for me but I didn’t want to lose my favorites either.

I noticed that my favorites remained available through the YouTube app for iOS but saving them from there would be a lot of manual work. This is where programming came in handy as the favorites also remain available through the YouTube API and according to this a simple call to

would return a list of a user’s favorites in xml. By default it only returns a limited amount of favorites at a time but by adding a few parameters and incrementing the parameter startindex until all favorites are returned (and the api returns 0 entries) one can get all favorites.

With this and a simple case of coding (in my case in Java) I was able to retrieve all my 257 favorites and save their title and URL to a file. So while it is sad to lose the favorites functionality on YouTube I was able to rescue something which was important to me at relative ease –  a good example of programming being a handy tool, not only for dedicated software developers.