Introduction: YouTube Subscriber Counter With ESP8266

Picture of YouTube Subscriber Counter With ESP8266

I was inspired by the Play Button awards YouTube sends out for subscriber milestones and whipped up a simple circuit using an ESP8266 wifi board and seven segment display to show off my realtime subscriber count. This is a great IoT beginner project, with just a little soldering and a code personalization required to make it work for your own account.

Before attempting this project, you should be generally familiar with uploading new programs to your Arduino board and installing code libraries, both of which you can learn for free in my Arduino Class, though you really don't have to understand any of the actual Arduino code to get this project running.

For this project, you will need the following materials:

and the following tools:

Required software libraries:

Unique data required:

As an alternative to the Feather Huzzah, you can also use your favorite ESP8266 microcontroller board, some of which require an FTDI cable to upload new programs. Use the standard 7-segment backpack rather than the FeatherWing version.

Step 1: Assemble Circuit

Picture of Assemble Circuit

Follow the official assembly instructions for the Feather Huzzah using female headers (or stacking headers, though you'd have to cut the long legs off) Likewise follow the assembly instructions for your seven-segment FeatherWing display.

Before you dive into the code for this project, you should first make sure you've got your Arduino software set up properly to program the board you are using, which in my case involves installing the SiLabs USB driver and installing ESP8266 board support (explained in more detail in the Feather Huzzah tutorial):

  • Go to Arduino-> Preferences...
  • Look for a text field labeled "Additional Boards Manager URLs:" and paste the following URL into the field (separate multiple URLs with commas if applicable):
    <a href=""></a>
  • Click OK
  • Go to Tools->Board-> Boards Manager...
  • Search for ESP8266 and click the Install button in the box "esp8266 by ESP8266 Community" when it shows up

Huzzah ESP8266 boards have an LED connected to pin 0, and you can find a sample blink sketch by navigating to File->Examples->ESP8266->Blink, or copy it from here:

void setup() {
  pinMode(0, OUTPUT);
void loop() {
  digitalWrite(0, HIGH);
  digitalWrite(0, LOW);

Plug in your USB cable to the board and configure your settings under the Tools menu as follows:

  • Board: Adafruit Huzzah ESP8266
  • CPU Frequency: 80MHz
  • Flash Size: 4M (3M SPIFFS)
  • Upload Speed: 115200
  • Port: whichever one ends in SLAB_USBtoUART (Mac) or COMx (Windows)

Click the Upload button to send the program to your board. This will take several seconds (longer than you are used to with Arduino Uno). After complete, the onboard LED should start blinking.

While the Feather Huzzah auto-detects when it's being sent a new program, other ESP8266 boards may require a sequence of button presses to get into bootloader mode.

Do not proceed until you've successfully uploaded a blink test program to your board.

Step 2: Customize Code & Program Board

Picture of Customize Code & Program Board

For this project, you will need the following Arduino Libraries. Easily search and install each one using the Library Manager by navigating to Sketch->Include Library->Manage Libraries... or download from Github and install the old fashioned way:

Download the code attached to this step and open the file "YouTubeSubscriberCounter.ino" in the Arduino IDE. Customize the variables (shown highlighted in teal in the Arduino screenshot above):

Upload the customized code to your board.

Step 3: Print Paper Template

Picture of Print Paper Template

Download the paper template attached to this step and print it out (designed for 8.5x11" paper, and my shadow box capacity is 4x6"). Cut along the lines to separate the two pieces. The graphic goes right behind the glass, and the other part is for easy placement of the circuit.

Step 4: Put It All Together

Picture of Put It All Together

Clean the inside of your glass to be sure its free of dust, cat hair, and other contaminates. Glass is sharp, so be careful handling it.

Place the graphic template face down against the glass, then stack the shadow box separator inside. Glue the other template piece to a 4x6 piece of illustration board or scrap cardboard using a glue stick, then tape the circuit sandwich in place over the template rectangle. You could avoid the glue-up step by printing the template on stiff paper.

Cut away a notch in both backing boards to accommodate for the USB cable, and slot the back in place. Plug in and enjoy! Of if you're like me, disassemble several more times to get the notch just right, the dust out of the glass (again), and install a small shim under the USB plug to help the seven-segment display press flush against the paper/glass (otherwise the numbers are blurry).

Step 5: Enjoy!

Picture of Enjoy!

Display your custom Play Button with pride!

You may have noticed the display only supports subscriber counts up to 10,000. If you're popular enough to have that problem, add another four-digit display to yours, soldering a jumper to change the I2C address of the second one.

I'd be delighted to see your version of this project in the comments. Let me know if you have any questions as well. Thanks for reading!

If you like this project, you may be interested in the other IoT projects in the series:


DJTMGaming (author)2018-01-13

Is it possible to have multiple wifi networks that the board can connect to?

excited (author)2017-12-31

Really inspiring, Thank You! Will start to make one for Instagram follower count for our cafe. Probably need some help with coding :D

soggybag made it! (author)2017-12-18

I just built this project. Still needs to go in a box. Didn't seem to work with 5G on my router but, switching to the other channel, I think it's 3G, worked!

Bob654312 (author)2017-10-02

Hello again!

for some reason, I am not getting any ports called ....SLAB_USBtoUART.

all I have is a bluetooth one, and /dev/cu.MALS or /dev/cu.SOC

what should I do? I can't upload anything to the board :(

It is giving me the following error message:

warning: espcomm_sync failed

error: espcomm_open failed

error: espcomm_upload_mem failed

error: espcomm_upload_mem failed

Thanks for the help!!!


WannaDuino (author)Bob6543122017-10-19

are you Dutch Bob?

want dan kan ik je op weg helpen, in hoe Arduino en librairies enz te gebruiken..

en hoe je het moet instellen,


bekathwia (author)Bob6543122017-10-02

Could it be that you are missing the SiLabs driver and/or ESP8266 boards package? For info on setting up your Arduino software to work with the Feather Huzzah, check out my free Internet of Things Class or the Adafruit product guide:

Bob654312 (author)2017-08-03


I am having the same problem as Wannaduino. Unfortunately, I just decided to try to build this project out of curiosity. I have absolutely zero coding experience, and this is my first Arduino ever! If anyone figured out how to get this project working on a 7-segment LED matrix backpack with only 4 pins (besides the pins to connect the actual LED display), I would really really really appreciate any help I can get. I have not started doing anything to my Arduino yet, as I don't want to mess anything up before even getting started.

Also, how can I connect the LED display to the Adafruit feather HUZZAH with ESP8266? The pins don't match up, since the LED backpack does not have the pins in the same place anymore....

I don't have a lot of money, since I am just a student, and so I really do not want to have spent 25 dollars for nothing. If anyone could help me out, you would really make my day :).

Thank you so much!

bekathwia (author)Bob6543122017-08-03

One really common mistake Arduino beginners make is to bite off more than they can chew-- if this is your first Arduino project, you should start simpler with tutorials you can follow exactly, such as my free Arduino class: (and examples that use your exact display) before you should expect to be able to adapt examples for different hardware.

Bob654312 (author)bekathwia2017-08-03

True :)

I am a very ambitious person, so when I see something I think is interesting, I go for it. How long do you think it will take me to figure all of this out? As I am in the process of moving to a different country, my first college, and getting my driver's license (which is really to complicated here in Europe :( ), I really have to be on top of my schedule.

Is the problem I am having something you would consider an "easy fix"?

Did WannaDuino figure out how to get his to work? Because he said he has been trying to code arduino's for a year now, which, to be honest, worries me a little bit regarding my chances of success.

I will definitely look into your course, as you have obviously put a lot of time into creating it, and I think I am your prime demographic for it :)

Thanks so much for the help! Any extra help will, of course, be extremely appreciated, as well.

Have a great day!

WannaDuino (author)Bob6543122017-10-19

Thanx bro, for reading my comments, yep it is STILL not working,

wanna know why? because i did NOT GET ANY HELP. that`s why, so don`t worrie. they will help you,

because my messages where stuck on the instructable server, they never came to Becky, and then after a few messages NOT comming tru, i got madder and madder and my messages where getting angyer too.

And yep, on that time they got tru to here, and thats why i still untill today HAVE NOT got any answer of her.

But, there is a guy here, witnesmenow, he made the code, and he told me he would help me, HE DID in his vissues way, he played with me, he wanted me to learn it myself.

what would you do, if somebody says to you when you have no F16 jet experiance, and never flown, and that you need to do it yourself..

i tryed it for days, and he just left me.

understand my anger now..

instructables server was the fault of me having still not a working display.

what an amazing story eehh. and i got the mails from mikesaures and abother instuctebles employee to back my story up.

so BECKY ask them. this complete mess was NOT my fault from the beginning,

what would you do?

i just want it to work dudes.

BrunoG85 made it! (author)2017-07-04

You inspired me to make one of that. But, I did make some changes in project and in the code.

I used a Amica Nodemcu v2 and a MAX7219 8 digits 7 segments lcd display.

If you want to see my code you can check here:

WannaDuino (author)BrunoG852017-10-19

possible to put the code here, or send the code?

bekathwia (author)BrunoG852017-07-05

Awesome, thanks for sharing with us!!

witnessmenow (author)2017-07-06


It would be better if for you in the long run if you figured it out yourself

Follow the instructions in my instructables I linked to install the library. Once it is installed you will have an example for the library under File->Examples->TM1637

Try get that example working (hint, your node MCU board has pins labeled D1, D2 etc, so change CLK and DIO pins up the top of the example to have be the same as your pin label, with the D infront of it). You can connect Vcc to 3V and GND to G

Once you have that working try figure out what you need to add to Becky's sketch from the example to get it working.

WannaDuino (author)witnessmenow2017-07-07

Master, Sir.

It is 6 HOURS later, and i tried 5 hours long to figure it out. sorry, i did not get it to work. but your examle WORKED 100%

I had the TM library already, and that example also, so that was working in no time, but i only got to work because of your TIP, i did not know that you need to type the D in front of it, ( so i think that it`s on every controller so, what the pin name is, must be also typed in the sketch pinout.

also, the first try with the EXAMPLE did not work because i used D1 and D2, but it works on D5 and D6 ( probably SPI pins??) i have for all my boards pinout reference pictures. also included here.

Then i tried t Miss Becky's sketch, i copied parts in it, also the libraries.from the WORKING TM example, see pictures,

but i also got fault messages of the MATRIX display becky used, i do not think this only works with adding the tm librairy and some extra lines!!

i also copied the complete example in the becky sketch, would not upload,

I only copied the the lines but WITHOUT the loop test of the DONE example ( the digits and the DONE part of the code.but also i do not know where to paste it so tryed several places with NO effords.

Because i think that the rest needs to be taken out, ( the adafruit lines or whatever has to do with her display )OR AM I WRONG on that? maybe a new hint.? i really think that the complete code needs to be rewritten, and that is NOT my cup off tea,

I hope AGAIN that i am wrong, so i will not stop untill i get it to work I HOPE.

witnessmenow (author)WannaDuino2017-07-07

Hi WannaDuino,

If you got the example for the 7-segment working you are very close!

Yes you can remove the Adafruit and Matrix code (You have it highlighted in the first and second picture).

4th picture looks good!

Try put the code for printing done at the bottom of the setup. (If it doesn't work, at the start of the setup in TM library example they set the brightness, maybe try adding that to the start of your setup)

Becky writes to the seven segment in the code in her second picture, this is where you will need to use the line i gave in my first comment.

WannaDuino (author)witnessmenow2017-09-04


TechieG (author)2017-08-29

I want to add a 5 digit display so how can I add 5 digit display plzz replay

Bob654312 (author)2017-08-03

My LED Backpack is the 0.56'' 7-segment LED HT16K33 Backpack, by the way. I just realised that it looks a bit different than Wannaduinos' backpack.

I hope this helps!

bekathwia (author)Bob6543122017-08-03

It does, since that's the same type used in the tutorial, just with a slightly different pin configuration. Cross reference the pinouts on your backpack to these:

You'll need to use a breadboard, and use it to connect your backpack's power, ground, and I2C pins (marked SDA and SCL on the Feather).

Bob654312 (author)bekathwia2017-08-03


Thanks so much for your help! I now have the hardware all setup :)

Again, I really appreciate the fact you helped me out (and so quickly, too!) :)

witnessmenow (author)2017-03-04


I wrote the Youtube api library and i absolutely love coming across somebody using it!

Project looks great, thanks a lot for sharing!

I haven't even made one for myself yet, although i would only need 3 digits! (And only just!).

For people asking about making other counters, if you let me know which services you'd like i can take a look into if it possible!


WannaDuino made it! (author)witnessmenow2017-07-02

Then i need your help, i use the 4 pins 4digit 7 segment display.

i got it all working in the serial page of arduino GUI, but my lcdis not working, bcause of my 4 pins i think, what to change ti get it to work sir?

witnessmenow (author)WannaDuino2017-07-04

Sorry for the delay I only saw your messages now, I replied to your other comment :)

bekathwia (author)witnessmenow2017-03-05

Yay hi Brian! Great library, thank you so much!

DGW (author)bekathwia2017-03-06

What does API stand for?

witnessmenow (author)DGW2017-03-07

Hey DGW,
It stands for Application Program Interface. But I guess more important this is what is it!

Basically it's a way for an application or service to be easily interacted with by a program. So the library mentioned is making a call to the YouTube API and returning the results. Lots of APIs are available for different services

witnessmenow (author)2017-03-23

Hey Becky,

A user pointed out an issue with the example sketch of the library, that I just checked that you have the same issue in your sketch. Sorry, my bad!

The issue is that millis() will eventually roll over and start counting up from 0 again (I think it roughly about 40 days when this happens). When that happens your sketch will stop checking youtube as the if statement in the loop will never be true.

It's fixed on github now if you want to check it out (just change the two time holding variables to unsigned long):

I added a new example to the library as well that uses WiFiManager library, you should check it out as it means you don't need to reprogram the device to change the Wifi Network and you can also configure the API key and Channel ID using it too.

I've More Info on WifiManager here.

WannaDuino (author)witnessmenow2017-06-29


i uploaded the code with SUCCES, yes finally. And is working in the serial screen of Arduino.

but my 7 segment is different!! i only have 4 pins. do you know how i can let mine work to?

witnessmenow (author)WannaDuino2017-07-04

Hey WannaDuino

I think I use the same 7 segment display in my Commute Checker project. Unfortunately the library for it is not on the library manager but I have instructions on how to install it here (scroll to the part about TM1637)

There will be an example with the library that will show you its features, but I think what you are looking for is

display.showNumberDec(numSubs, false);

hopefully that helps!

bekathwia (author)witnessmenow2017-03-24

Thank you! I've updated the sketch to correct the variable types. And I will check out your new example soon too! Sounds like a great upgrade for v2, configurable wifi would allow this project to be given as a gift! Thanks again for your great code and amazing follow-through.

Riclebre made it! (author)2017-05-19

Super Cool, now I need more subscribers! LOL I upgrade the looks with a 3D printed play button if anybody is interested the files are here:

bekathwia (author)Riclebre2017-05-19

Super great work, thanks for sharing!! Subbed to your channel too =D

JScottMO made it! (author)2017-03-29

Made a few small changes. Increased the update time to 10mintes. Had it check my personal channel and my branded channel (project management fundamentals) and total the number of subscribers. Works and looks great!

GaliotB (author)2017-03-23

Nice Project for my YouTube Channel Subs.

I would love it to have the source code also for Instagram, Facebook Page or Twitter. Maybe i have to learn the API´s Requests:(

mthobbies made it! (author)2017-03-10

I am almost finished with this project but when I uploaded the code
to the board, it looks like this! I uploaded the basic 7-segment example
sketch and it works fine. So I know for sure its not a problem with the
hardware. Please help!!


bekathwia (author)mthobbies2017-03-10

Looks like it's not connecting to the net-- the display will spit out random info until it gets told what to display for the first time. Work on your Feather Huzzah setup, follow the setup tutorial to verify your network settings etc.

mthobbies (author)bekathwia2017-03-10

Its working now! Thanks for your help Becky

bekathwia (author)mthobbies2017-03-10

Additionally, there could be a problem with your Google API key. Brian who wrote the library has a step for verifying that your key and youtube id are working:

Technovation (author)2017-03-04

wow cool, great job and a very neat project!!!! was wondering whether instead of counting the number of subscribers, whether it could count the number of views or likes instead?


if you look at the example on the github page of the YouTube API library you'll see the stats the library supports.

View count is one, likes isn't though (doesnt come back in the statistics api request)


Titan Grey (author)2017-03-04

that is so cool

Papimo (author)2017-03-04

Live counters are awesome! Like it very much ^^

woodbywright (author)2017-02-28

I LOVE IT!! now I just need to find a 6 digit display.

DavidG179 (author)2017-03-02

You got my vote. Great proyect. i will to make this project this afternoon. Great to learn about IoT

iparolisi (author)2017-03-01

Can i use this tutorial for a instagram follower counter?

bekathwia (author)iparolisi2017-03-01

Thanks! The code uses the Google API right now, so a significant change would be required to make it work for other platforms.

cptsilvertooth (author)2017-02-28

great project! I wonder if this would work for a Facebook business page "likes" counter?

jf_blanco (author)2017-02-28

Wires. No thanks ;-) Anyway a nice app

About This Instructable




Bio: Becky Stern is a content creator at Autodesk/Instructables. She has authored hundreds of tutorials about everything from wearable electronics to knitting. Before joining Instructables ... More »
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