I was in my son’s classroom last week to help out during art. Afterwards the teacher put on a Numberjacks video from YouTube while we hung their art, distributed home readers and tidied up. During the video, YouTube displayed ads for McDonalds Happy Meals and women’s clothing from EziBuy. Unsurprisingly, the kids got a little bit silly each time and it was quite disruptive. There was also plenty of other potentially inappropriate content on the screen including user comments and video suggestions.

In this article I will discuss two very simple1 options for a teacher to show YouTube videos without ads, comments or related videos. They don’t require Flash, they don’t involve changes to the network and they don’t rely on IT Staff to work.

ViewPure

In my testing ViewPure worked really well and was quite simple to use. It also has advanced options (hidden by default) letting you choose a custom start and finish time, create a custom link (e.g. viewpure.com/MrSmith) and password protect links.

It has three options for finding and “purifying” a YouTube video including search, copy and paste and a bookmarklet.

ViewPure’s search page is simple and uncluttered. By default it sets SafeSearch to “strict” so teachers shouldn’t get any nasty surprises in the search results. There are no ads or promoted videos which should also put teacher’s minds at ease.

ViewPure’s search would be fantastic for classroom use if it weren’t for the fact (at least in my testing using Safari on iPhone & Mac and Chrome on Mac) that it doesn’t show thumbnails of the videos. This makes it much harder to identify videos and specific episodes at a glance.

Using this search functionality is much safer than visiting the YouTube home page (with who knows what in the “recently uploaded” section) but unless they fix it soon I think most teachers won’t like the lack of thumbnails.

Copy and Paste

This method involves opening a YouTube video, copying its URL and pasting it into the ViewPure website. Whilst a little more complicated for teachers, copying and pasting a URL should be a core competency for most by now.

ViewPure accepts various YouTube links including mobile links (m.youtube.com/watch?v=xyz123), YouTube shortened links (youtu.be/xyz123) and full YouTube links (www.youtube.com/watch?v=xyz123).

It doesn’t support redirects though so pasting a bit.ly link, or even a link from a Google search page, won’t work (as at May 2016).

Bookmarklet

The bookmarklet method is a simplified version of copy and paste. With the bookmarklet installed you open up a YouTube video and then select the special ViewPure bookmarklet from your bookmarks bar, bookmarks menu or favourites. It uses JavaScript to get the current page’s URL, paste it into ViewPure and open the resulting page.

To add the bookmarklet to your bookmarks or favourites in the first place is as simple as dragging and dropping. Unfortunately the place to “drop” it varies from browser to browser and may be hidden by default.

To make sure the “drop” destination is visible on the Mac (both Safari and Chrome) look in the View menu for an option to “Show Favorites Bar” (Safari) or “Always Show Bookmarks Bar” (Chrome). For other browsers/platforms/versions it’s probably similar so poke around or ask another teacher.

SafeShare

In many ways SafeShare is slightly easier to use than ViewPure. It provides similar advanced options to ViewPure (e.g. start and finish adjustments) but makes them easier to find.

However, in my limited testing it was not nearly as reliable. It wasn’t working at all for a few minutes this morning and this afternoon I had to reload the page numerous times to make things work. That may be okay during lesson prep time but teachers won’t like it if it doesn’t work during class.

Whilst it only officially supports the copy and paste method, I was able to create a bookmarklet that seemed to work fine.

Copy and Paste

This method involves opening a YouTube video, copying its URL and pasting it into the SafeShare website. Whilst this is a multi-step process, copying and pasting a URL should be a core competency for most teachers by now.

SafeShare accepts various YouTube links including mobile links (m.youtube.com/watch?v=xyz123), YouTube shortened links (youtu.be/xyz123) and full YouTube links (www.youtube.com/watch?v=xyz123). SafeShare also supports Vimeo links if you happen to need that functionality too.

Like ViewPure, it doesn’t support redirects so pasting a bit.ly link, or even a link from a Google search page, won’t work (as at May 2016).

Bookmarklet

SafeShare doesn’t provide a bookmarklet but I was able to tweak the ViewPure one to use SafeShare instead. Just create a bookmark and paste the following code into the address/location/URL field:

javascript:void(location.href='http://safeshare.tv/submit?url='+encodeURIComponent(location.href))

I tested this bookmarklet successfully with both YouTube and Vimeo.

Summary

Similarities

Both services solve the problem of playing YouTube clips without risk of inappropriate content in the way of ads, comments or related/promoted videos.

Most YouTube clips can be viewed this way although both services rely on embedding. It is possible for YouTube creators to prevent their videos from being embedded so you may come across videos that can’t be displayed in either service.

Both services are currently free and may go away at any time.

Both services provide a fairly standard YouTube experience in terms of captions, playback controls and full screen although SafeShare also offers a “dim lights” option which lets you dim the background without going full screen.

Neither service displayed ads on the video playback page.

Other Minor Differences

ViewPure has a single banner ad on the home page which may be a negative but during my visits the ads they displayed were neither invasive nor offensive.

SafeShare lets you drag the start and finish markers which is either a nice little touch or a fiddly nuisance depending on your point of view. It also provides a “Download Video” link, however this is a negative in my mind as downloading is against the YouTube terms of service and SafeShare relies on a scammy looking website that’s plastered in ads for this feature.

ViewPure’s built in URL shortening service gives some nice “old school” sharing options (e.g. printed handouts, on a whiteboard or on a poster).

Whilst they seem to use the same embedded YouTube Player on one occasion SafeShare provided an AirPlay option while ViewPure didn’t. If you are using a Mac or iPad and have an AppleTV in your classroom this may be a deciding factor.

Conclusion

Whilst both services work my personal recommendation would be ViewPure, mainly for reliability reasons. That being said, my issues with SafeShare may have just been bad timing and other than that it was a solid option.

  1. The simpler the better… Most teachers don’t live and breathe technology and even tech-savvy teachers don’t want to be messing around with embed links, embed options and adding embeds to a webpage or LMS in the middle of a lesson while 20-30 students watch (im)patiently.