HOWTO download YouTube videos using Firebug

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Here’s a cool little trick I discovered by accident. If you use the excellent Firebug add-on for Firefox you can very easily download YouTube videos without resorting to websites like Keepvid or add-ons like Fast Video Download. Here’s how:

  1. Start up Firebug by clicking on the logo in the status bar (you might have to right-click and remove the ‘Disable Firebug’ tick)
    firebug.png
  2. Go to the movie on YouTube you want to download
  3. Go to the ‘Net’ tab in Firebug(you might need to turn on the ‘Net’ panel first in newer versions of Firebug) and locate the ‘get_video’ object, it’s a few megabytes in size, depending on how long the video is
    firebug-net.png
  4. Right-click on the URL and select ‘Copy location’
    firebug-location.png
  5. Paste the URL in your favourite download manager. I used wget to download the file like this in a terminal:$ wget "http://enormous_long_youtube_url" -O video.flv
  6. Play with a movie player that understands FLV such as VLC
  7. Enjoy! If you liked this article you can digg it.

Update (03/02/2009)

I found out that this method actually works on most sites with video content. Simply load up the page with the video object and look for the biggest file in the ‘Net’ tab in Firebug (it’s usually several megabytes in size). Then use wget to get the file, but do remember to put quotes (“) around the file because some of the characters in the filename (such as ampersands) might give weird behaviour in a terminal. This method even works on sites that have ‘pre-rolls’ or advertisements. Simply wait until the pre-roll is over and a new large file will appear in the ‘Net’ tab. This is the movie file you need!

And if you want to view the downloaded file (usually a Flash video or ‘flv’ file) on your iPod, iPhone or PSP you can use the excellent Handbrake to convert to those formats.

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