A recommendation I see occasionally thrown around the privacy community is to use frontends such as Invidious to mitigate whatever data collection happens on the platform’s normal site, in this case YouTube. Over the years, I’ve tried out a couple of these services and I remain skeptical. These sites seem pretty unchecked, and their owners can do whatever they want with them, is it really a good idea to trust these random servers over the stock site?
Obviously some of these sites, namely Nitter, have utility outside of privacy, considering the default Twitter site is nearly impossible to use without an account. I’m solely focusing on the privacy aspect of these services.
YouTube will collect data even if you’re not logged in, but even with that is it worth trusting someone’s home-server over whatever Google keeps on it’s no-login users?
As always, it depends on your threat model. Alternative frontends have their pros and cons.
I am going to assume that you do not use any add ons to automatically redirect you to these privacy respecting websites (increase of fingerprinting).
Generally speaking, alternative frontends can be really amazing. You mentioned Invidious. This has some straight up “better than YouTube” points, like no advertisements an less tracking (never assume that a service has zero tracking) are two examples. These also apply to pretty much every other alternative frontend. This also doesn’t have the “YouTube collects data of you” problem due to how Invidious works.
Wikiless has no JS and let’s you access articles that are censored/unavailable in your country on Wikipedia. Another win for alternative frontends.
If you’re in Russia, Instagram is currently not available. Alternative frontends (like Bibliogram) should be available tho. The third win for alternative frontends.
What applies in general to every alt frontend: Google and so on make money of you being a person, these alt frontends generally are run and developed by enthusiasts and make money of donations. This generally speaking makes alt frontends more trustworthy.
But here is the huge problem with all of them: Google and Meta spend millions, probably even billions of Dollars on making their services much more secure. How about alternative frontends? How secure are they? Do you actually want to log in/make an account there?
Would you mind Google, Meta and so on deleting your account if you violate the terms of service with using the alt frontend?
In conclusion: Lots of alt frontends are worth it, as they solve some issues these services have. They aren’t perfect, but for most people much better than using the original service. It is a bad choice if you make money on the services, like if you are a YouTuber.
Note: This is not advice, just my personal opinion
I don’t know why JS gets so hate from the privacy community. Sure the language can be abused to make tracking stuff, but tracking stuff can be made using SCSS too and it’s not very hard to do those either.
I’m a huge fan of Invidious, Piped, Libreddit, Nitter, ProxyTok, Rimgo, WikiLess, Scribe, Libremdb and Lingva as they allow me to access content on really invasive website more privately.
However I would not sign up for an account on a public instance. If you or a friend host a private instance and that you are several people using it I would see no problem don’t creating an account but I won’t do one on someone’s instance that I don’t know/trust
Many privacy front-end such as Libreddit or Nitter don’t let you signing up anyway.
I think a lot of it is about trust. Who would you rather trust with your data: A giant company, where you’re just a data point; Or Alan Smithy, who’s hosting a server, where his audience is so small, he could potentially be looking at everything you do. Who do you trust? What if I told you some of these hosts also host their own Linux server (where you pull packages from). Does that make a difference? If so, why?
In my opinion, it’s personal preference. Go with whatever YOU feel is better. Personally, I really like Nitter and Wikiless. I use them quite often. Invidious and Piped are too unstable for me to use reliably. Libreddit is cool, but I prefer old.reddit (and a blocking extension), and the ability to use an account (no personal info tied to it). I could go on. Just use what you feel works best for your workflow. it’s not an all or nothing deal.