Generating YouTube user RSS feeds

On 4 March 2014, YouTube deprecated the v2.0 API for YouTube (source). One of the unfortunate side effects was that RSS feeds for user uploads were included in what was deprecated.

Previously, you could get an RSS feed with a link of the form: https://gdata.youtube.com/feeds/base/users/{user}/uploads For the longest time, even after the deprecation, those links still worked, but a couple weeks ago, more and more of the video feeds I was subscribed to started redirecting to YouTube Help account. As thrilling as that channel is, it’s not what I’m looking for.

Let’s fix it.

First step, we need a YouTube Data API (v3) key. Unfortunately it doesn’t look like they provide un-authenticated use of the API as before. That’s easy enough though, just go through the steps to register an application. Next, dig through the APIs. It doesn’t look like there is a way to directly get a user’s videos, but you can get a list of a users ‘uploads’ playlist, which functions much the same way.

Using Python’s requests library, we just have to hit the correct endpoint:

# Use the channel to get the 'uploads' playlist id
response = requests.get(
    'https://www.googleapis.com/youtube/v3/channels',
    params = {
        'part': 'contentDetails',
        'forUsername': user,
        'key': API_KEY,
    }
)

One example response:

{"etag": "\"tbWC5XrSXxe1WOAx6MK9z4hHSU8/6wRGj4eVz7tGNiDQjCMuhP6B4vQ\"",
 "items": [{"contentDetails": {"googlePlusUserId": "112244684143881021368",
                               "relatedPlaylists": {"likes": "LL6nSFpj9HTCZ5t-N3Rm3-HA",
                                                    "uploads": "UU6nSFpj9HTCZ5t-N3Rm3-HA"}},
            "etag": "\"tbWC5XrSXxe1WOAx6MK9z4hHSU8/yMieoczWtu9QiK_MEdJrC0hqmdU\"",
            "id": "UC6nSFpj9HTCZ5t-N3Rm3-HA",
            "kind": "youtube#channel"}],
 "kind": "youtube#channelListResponse",
 "pageInfo": {"resultsPerPage": 5, "totalResults": 1}}

That’s some progress. Specifically, you can get the playlist ID for the user uploads:

playlistId = response.json()['items'][0]['contentDetails']['relatedPlaylists']['uploads']

From there, we can query the API again in order to get the most recent 20 items from that specific playlist:

# Get the most recent 20 videos on the 'uploads' playlist
response = requests.get(
    'https://www.googleapis.com/youtube/v3/playlistItems',
    params = {
        'part': 'snippet',
        'maxResults': 20,
        'playlistId': playlistId,
        'key': API_KEY
    }
)

Some snippets from that output (it’s rather large):

{"etag": "\"tbWC5XrSXxe1WOAx6MK9z4hHSU8/PH2ohKtd9aLBba_d7dVtVUfFle0\"",
 "items": [{"etag": "\"tbWC5XrSXxe1WOAx6MK9z4hHSU8/-LUTubHPIceTTTPMrBW-Qs9KOZQ\"",
            "id": "UUKzDohq4XHVIEl9O19Nd8rKuqCo1VravR",
            "kind": "youtube#playlistItem",
            "snippet": {"channelId": "UC6nSFpj9HTCZ5t-N3Rm3-HA",
                        "channelTitle": "Vsauce",
                        "description": "Vsauce is nominated for a Webby "
                                       "in Science & Education! You can "
                                       ...,
                        "playlistId": "UU6nSFpj9HTCZ5t-N3Rm3-HA",
                        "position": 0,
                        "publishedAt": "2015-04-13T19:26:03.000Z",
                        "resourceId": {"kind": "youtube#video",
                                       "videoId": "f8WsO__XcI0"},
                        "thumbnails": {"default": {"height": 90,
                                                   "url": "https://i.ytimg.com/vi/f8WsO__XcI0/default.jpg",
                                                   "width": 120},
                                       ...},
                       "title": "When Will We Run Out Of Names?"}},
           {"etag": "\"tbWC5XrSXxe1WOAx6MK9z4hHSU8/kCpPYobMQgr7w9gfxaR-_cfkJkc\"",
           ...]}

In that snippets blob, we have everything we need. Specifically, the title, thumbnails, and link (by way of resourceID.videoId). Specifically, we can start to construct an RSS feed using the feedgen library1:

# Generate a list of results that can be used as feed items
feed = feedgen.feed.FeedGenerator()
feed.title(user + ' (YRSS)')
feed.author({'name': user + ' (YRSS)'})
feed.id('YRSS:' + user)

for item in response.json()['items']:
    title = item['snippet']['title']
    video_id = item['snippet']['resourceId']['videoId']
    published = item['snippet']['publishedAt']
    thumbnail = item['snippet']['thumbnails']['high']['url']
    video_url = 'https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=' + video_id

    item = feed.add_entry()
    item.title(title)
    item.link(href = video_url)
    item.published(dateutil.parser.parse(published))
    item.updated(dateutil.parser.parse(published))
    item.id(video_id)
    item.content('''
<a href="{url}"><img src="{img}" /></a>
<a href="{url}">{title}</a>
'''.format(
        url = video_url,
        img = thumbnail,
        title = title,
    ))

And generate the feed:

feed.atom_str()

I love how (relatively) elegant that was. You don’t have to worry about or even know anything about how the underlying XML will be structured.

Since eventually I want this to be a web service, I used Flask to generate a simple API:

app = flask.Flask(__name__)

@app.route('/<user>.xml')
@app.route('/<user>/atom.xml')
def generatefeed(user):
    ...

    return feed.atom_str()

That way, if you go to http://myserver.com/{user}.xml, you would get an RSS feed for that user’s most recent 20 videos. There are a few other considerations to keep in mind (For example, I have a cache that only re-queries the YouTube API once per hour and otherwise re-serves the same feed. And better error handling.)

If you’d like to see the full source in all it’s glory, it’s available on GitHub: jpverkamp/yrss. You will have to supply an API_KEY as an environment variable to run it, but that should be relatively straight forward.


  1. I originally used feedgenerator, but it doesn’t seem to support Python3 [return]
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