How to Discover Channel IDs with the YouTube Data API

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In part two of our series working with the YouTube Data API, we showed you how to display a YouTube channel's playlists programmatically as long as you knew the channel ID. In this tutorial we will show you how to get a listing of a YouTube user's playlists by only needing to know a YouTube username.

In part two, since we had the channel ID, we could easily build the linked header using the username and channel ID. This time though, we only have the username so we have to rely on the API to get the channel ID. Here we need to make a call to the /channels resource to determine the channel ID which in turn lets us get the channel's playlists. The API call looks like below

$.get("", { 
    'part': 'snippet, id',                              
    'forUsername': youTubeUserName,                         
    'key': localStorage.getItem("storedApiKey") },

One thing to remember is that there can be multiple channels associated with a single user ID. To simplify the code, we decided to focus on the first channel. Further extension of the code could let the user select which channel they want to work with.

Using a callback function, we can get the channel ID of the first channel. From there we can begin to construct the linked page header much like we did in part two. The difference this time is that we look for the channel ID of the first channel. We also use the channel name for the first channel using data.items[0].snippet.title.

function(data) {                                   
    var localChannelId = data.items[0].id;           
    document.getElementById("youtubeChannelName").innerHTML =               
    "<h1>YouTube Channel: va href='"     
    + localChannelId + "' target = '_newtab'>"                        
    + data.items[0].snippet.title + "</a></h1>"; 

The remaining part of the code is the same as we built in part two. The other extension to this code would be to create a dialog box that allows the user to input the YouTube username for which they want to display the playlists.

One thing we learned from this exercise is that YouTube's Data API does not return the full URI's for things like YouTube channels, playlists, and playlist items. It only returns the IDs of those items. If those URI's are needed (for example, to link some text like we've done), the developer must learn exactly how YouTube formats its URI's (there are different base URLs for channels, playlists, and playlist items) and then construct those hyperlinks based on those formats and the IDs that are returned from the API calls. This is not only painful, but brittle. For example, if YouTube changes any of its URL structures (which it has done in the past), your app will depend on the successful redirection of the old URL to continue working. Such redirections are not guaranteed to work and can introduce latency. What would have been better is if the YouTube Data API just returned the full URL of the resource.

Wendell Santos is the editor at You can reach him at Connect to Wendell on Twitter at @wendell78 or Google+.

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