YouTube has finally expanded its player to support widescreen video and has even been experimenting with video in 1280×720 high-definition format. YouTube also supports subtitles and captions uploaded in simple file formats. As broadcasters and other online services continue to raise the bar in terms of video quality, it may not be so easy to dismiss YouTube as a collection of tiny grainy video clips. YouTube is growing up.

YouTube has also changed the size and aspect ratio of its video player and to accommodate it has expanded the width of its web page.

“Over the years we’ve heard a lot of feedback from you about what you’d like to change about YouTube, and the size of our video player is always top of mind,” the Google owned company said on its web site. “This new, wider player is in a widescreen aspect ratio which we hope will provide you with a cleaner, more powerful viewing experience.”

The player now supports widescreen 16:9 video, providing a better environment for programming partners and advertisers. The adherence to 4:3 had long been an anachronistic anomaly in the world of widescreen digital television.

However some web users seemed confused by the change, objecting to the black bars appearing either side of the 4:3 format video that makes up the majority of the material on YouTube.

For some months, YouTube has been offering some videos in a high-quality format, more than twice the resolution of its original offering. More recently, YouTube has been experimenting with video at a resolution of 1280×720 pixels, which counts as high-definition and is good enough to fill most screens.

It currently requires adding fmt=22 to the query string of the video location and of course it only works with material that has been uploaded at this quality, like the Where the Hell is Matt video, which has been viewed many millions of times in its low resolution format. The quality is considerably improved when the high definition version is viewed full screen, although it requires a fast broadband connection to stream the rather large file.

That said, the examples seen by informitv appeared heavily over compressed and rather soft. Nevertheless, the enhancement in quality seen in online video in recent years has been considerable and will only go on to improve.