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It is probably because you are using Compiz. I wish I could use compiz, but it causes display tearing in all applications.
Yes when I use compiz with indirect rendering enabled, it causes tearing everywere. But if I disable this option it works perfectly. Also, even without compiz, youtube videos play fine.
This is my xorg.conf in case you find it useful:
Just remember that until Flash video performance improves, while browsing most flash video sites like YouTube you can simply run:
vlc /tmp/Flash* # or use mplayer or totem or whatever video player
... to view the current streaming video in a real video player instead of using the browser plugin. It helps if the site allows you to mute the volume of the embedded flash player.
This usually looks better than even with the flash plugin on Windows, since the other players typically have been post-processing to soften compression artifacts, has better vertical sync, allows aspect ratio adjustments, etc.
Looks like the Linux version of 10.1 does NOT support video hardware assistance
In Flash Player 10.1, H.264 hardware acceleration is not supported under Linux and Mac OS. Linux currently lacks a developed standard API that supports H.264 hardware video decoding, and Mac OS X does not expose access to the required APIs. We will continue to evaluate adding the feature to Linux and Mac OS in future releases.
That's in the Release Notes in a section about NVidia ION - where you would think that VDPAU would be emminently suitable.
I haven't actually tested either of these yet. I found out about them while at work (stuck using Internet Explorer and youtube is blocked anyway). But the requirement for these are Firefox 3.5+ (I think, but it might be fine with 3.0) and the greasemonkey extension. But these will use the default system player to play the youtube files (it will use the mp4's if they are available) to completely bypass flash player.
Youtube without Flash ? This will allow you to stop using the flash based player and use your default player in the browser for mp4?s. In Slackware I think the default is gxine, but you can set it up with mplayerplug-in.
Youtube Perfect ? So this has a ton of different options, and includes the one above. One of the cooler ones is it darkens out the rest of the screen while watching something? kinda like Hulu?s night mode.
I really should test this out, but I have shied away from youtube for quite a while due to my low powered laptop and the resource hungry flashplayer. But I since got my desktop back up and have been using that.