'Gangnam Style' breaks YouTube

Rapper Psy brings 'Gangnam Style' to U.S.
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Story highlights

  • "Gangnam Style" has maxed out YouTube's original video-view counter
  • The clip, by South Korean pop star PSY, has surpassed 2,147,483,647 views
  • YouTube has been forced to upgrade its software in response
The Internet is a vast and seemingly limitless space, but it's no match for PSY.
"Gangnam Style," the South Korean pop star's enduring video phenomenon from 2012, has surpassed 2,147,483,647 views on YouTube, maxing out the site's original view counter.
"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," wrote Google, which owns YouTube, in a blog post this week. " 'Gangnam Style' has been viewed so many times we have to upgrade!"
For anyone who doesn't have an advanced degree in computing, that basically means YouTube's view counter was based on a 32-bit integer, a unit of data in computer programming languages, and the number 2,147,483,647 is its maximum positive value.
When programmers built YouTube nine years ago, they probably never imagined that a video on the young platform -- back when several million views was considered a smash hit -- might be watched more than 2.1 billion times.
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As of late Wednesday morning, "Gangnam Style" had breached the barrier, showing more than 2,152,512,000 views.
So how is this possible?
YouTube's software engineers saw the problem coming and recently updated to a 64-bit view counter across the site, Google spokesman Matt McLernon said. The view counter can now go up to 9 quintillion views (9,223,372,036,854,775,808, to be exact), which should hold PSY for a while.
"Nothing actually broke," McLernon said. "There was never anything that actually went wrong. It's just people having fun with the language."
Still, it's an impressive feat for PSY's trademark horse-riding dance video, which is almost 2½ years old. Uploaded in July 2012, "Gangnam Style" was the first clip to hit a billion views and is the most-watched video of all time. It was even the No. 5 most-played video on YouTube this past summer, McLernon said.
"People still play this video an absurd number of times," he said.
To commemorate the occasion, YouTube has added a new wrinkle: If you hover your cursor over the "Gangnam Style" view counter, the numbers spin backwards and forwards.