How To: The Trick That Lets You Link to Specific Start Times in YouTube Videos Right from Your Phone

The Trick That Lets You Link to Specific Start Times in YouTube Videos Right from Your Phone

The desktop version of YouTube, meaning the one you access on your computer, lets you add a timestamp to any video you're watching in just a few clicks. When you share the link or need to reference it later yourself, the timestamp makes the video start at the point specified, not the beginning. Unfortunately, tacking on timestamps from YouTube's mobile app is impossible — but there are workarounds.

Whenever you hit the "Share" button for a video in the official YouTube app on Android or iOS, you can only copy or share the video's main link without a start time set — there is no option to add a timestamp. And long-pressing timestamps in a video's description does nothing. We hope that Google adds a "start at" option to its mobile app, but we have other ways to do it from a smartphone until then.

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  1. Add a timestamp manually
  2. Add a timestamp using the desktop site
  3. Add a timestamp using a shortcut (iOS only)

Option 1: Add a Timestamp Manually

The most straightforward way to add a timestamp to a YouTube video on Android and iOS is to do it manually. All you have to do is find a video, copy the URL as you normally would, and then paste it somewhere where you can edit it. However, depending on the URL's structure, you can add either one of the two options below to the end of a URL.

  • &t=1m17s
  • ?t=1m17s

If the original YouTube video URL contains a question mark anywhere, use the option that starts with an ampersand (&). These YouTube URLs are the ones you would see in a web browser tab.

  • Example: youtube.com/watch?v=aVXSQPoEQr4&t=1m28s

If the URL doesn't have a question mark, use the option that starts with the question mark. These YouTube URLs are the ones you would get after using the "Share" button under the YouTube video.

  • Example: youtu.be/UunzPAjKeKs?t=14s

Now, you need to know how to add the specific time. After the "t=" tag, you can add time in minutes (m) and seconds (s). So if you want to add a timestamp at 2 minutes and 34 seconds (or 2:34), your timestamp would look like one of these:

  • &t=2m34s
  • ?t=2m34s

If the timestamp is under a minute, you can also just use seconds. For instance, for 42 seconds (0:42), remove the minute to have t=46s for a timestamp in the video.

  • &t=46s
  • ?t=46s

When you're dealing with a video that's longer than an hour, just add an h for hours, with the hour right before it. As an example, let's start a video that's 25 minutes and 8 seconds into the first hour (01:25:08). Without the hours tag added, it should look like this:

  • Example: youtube.com/watch?v=RDfjXj5EGqI&t=1h25m8s
  • Example: youtu.be/RDfjXj5EGqI?t=1h25m8s

Lastly, you could use seconds only, period. So for the video above that's over an hour, it could be written as &t=5108s or ?t=5108s— and this is actually how YouTube formats it on the desktop site when you hit "Start at" after "Share." As another example, for that video that starts at 2:34, it would be &t=154s or ?t=154s.

Option 2: Add a Timestamp Using the Desktop Site

If you don't want to type in the timestamp at the end of the video's URL manually, you can have YouTube do it for you. Unfortunately, it's not as easy as sharing a video from the mobile app or website. The key is requesting the desktop version of YouTube's web app within your web browser of choice.

In your web browser, navigate to the YouTube video that you want to share at a specific time. You can copy the URL from a shared link or the YouTube app. If you're searching for the video in your browser's search engine, tapping a YouTube video result will likely open the video up in your YouTube app. To avoid that, long-press the link instead, then open it in another tab and go to that tab.

Once you have a video loaded in your browser, request YouTube's desktop site. This will vary depending on your web browser, but it shouldn't take any more than a few taps. Here's how to to get there from Chrome or Safari:

  • Chrome: Hit the vertical or horizontal ellipsis, then tap "Desktop site" or "Request Desktop Site."
  • Safari: Hit the "AA" icon, then tap "Request Desktop Site."

Once you're on the desktop version of YouTube, play the video, go to the specific moment in the video you want to timestamp, pause it, and tap on the "Share" button next to the thumbs up/down icons.

In the pop-up that appears, tap on the box next to "Start at [##:##]," which should show the time at which you paused the video. When the box is checked, the URL in the pop-up should change, indicating that the timestamp has been included.

Now hit "Copy" or copy the URL manually to save it to your clipboard so that you can paste it where needed after. You could also share the timestamped video via a social media site, email, text, etc., and the timestamp will be included.

Option 3: Add a Timestamp Using a Shortcut (iOS Only)

Getting the timestamp from a YouTube video using JavaScript isn't an easy task in Shortcuts, but there are more primitive methods to building a shortcut. By that, I mean a shortcut that asks you to input the time manually. It's not super convenient, but it may be faster than the methods above.

One such option is the "YouTube Start at Time" shortcut, created by RoutineHub dev SpencerTambo. With it, you can quickly add a timestamp to a YouTube video in just a few taps. You can download the shortcut using the iCloud link below or from the shortcut's RoutineHub page (where updates may be found).

The Shortcuts app should open up automatically, but if it doesn't, tap on "Get Shortcut." You'll then see a preview for "YouTube Start at Time," where you can check out the shortcut's actions. To add the shortcut to your library, scroll all the way to the bottom and tap on "Add Untrusted Shortcut." (You may have to enable untrusted shortcuts in Settings if this is your first time using a third-party shortcut.)

Now, find the video in the YouTube mobile app or mobile site — it doesn't matter. Pause it where you want the timestamp and make a mental note of the minute and seconds to input later. Next, tap on "Share," and a pop-up will appear. Swipe through the options and tap on "More." This will bring up the Share sheet. Then, scroll down and tap on your new "YouTube Start at Time" shortcut.

When the shortcut runs, it will ask you to enter the timestamp in minutes and seconds. First, enter the minutes as asked. If only seconds are needed, type in 0 and then hit "Done." Second, enter the seconds and tap on "Done" once again. (If you need hours, you can convert them to minutes or seconds or edit the shortcut to include an hour prompt.)

The Share sheet will appear again. You now have several options to share your newly timestamped YouTube video, like copy it to your clipboard or share it directly to any number of native and third-party apps. Below, you can see the timestamped link (right) being shared in Messages.

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Cover photo and screenshots by Nelson Aguilar/Gadget Hacks

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