Like photo sharing, video sharing has become extremely popular. While numerous sites have sprung up to accomodate this craze, far and away the most successful and well recognized has been YouTube, which we will examine here.
YouTube is a video sharing site founded in February 2005. As of March 2008, the site hosted about 80 million videos and had 2.9 million channels. YouTube embodies much of what is great about video sharing and interactive, user-generated content.
YouTube is classified as an “interactive site” for a number of reasons:
- Content is user-submitted. Yes, some content is commercialized, such as political videos uploaded by the candidates or previews of television shows uploaded by the networks themselves, but most content uploaded to YouTube is created by YouTube’s large user base.
- Popularity matters. YouTube not only has ratings and comments (see below), but also lists the number of times a video has been viewed. Lists are then established for the most discussed (commented on), most recent, most responded (videos can be responded to with more videos), most viewed, top favorites (most favorited by users), and top rated. Thus, the number of times a video is viewed is largely dependant on the community’s reaction to it. It’s also worth noting that videos gain popularity as they proliferate off of the YouTube site. Many people e-mail or instant message links to humorous YouTube clips. In this way, the popularity of videos is dependant on user approval—even when that approval is manifested off of the site itself.
- Comments. Viewers can comment on videos, and can also vote other users’ comments up or down. Comments that are voted down enough are hidden. In this way, the community can filter offensive members.
- Content is rated. Registered users can rank videos with 1-5 stars. Rankings are a popular and straightforward way to highlight excellent videos.
- New features. YouTube is adding new features, including YouTube Mobile. More importantly, “TestTube” is YouTube’s center for new features that bring users together. Such ideas include Active Sharing (allowing you to show other users what video you’re watching), Audio Swap, Streams, and Warp.
YouTube has even created internet celebrities. For example, the band “OK Go” posted a creative music video that they created for under $5,000. The video for their song “Here It Goes Again” featured the creative use of treadmills to form an elaborate and well choreographed dance. The video, posted on July 31, 2006, has been viewed 31.7 million times as of March 2008. The band’s sales exploded as they went mainstream and won a Grammy for the video. Similarly, Apple fan Nick Haley made a homemade iPod Touch commercial. The commercial was discovered by Apple advertising executives, who subsequently paid Haley for his idea and flew him to Los Angeles to reshoot the ad in high-definition. Haley, an average eighteen-year old playing around with movie-editing software, became an internet celebrity in just days. Many other groups have utilized YouTube’s user base. For example, the band OneRepublic used YouTube to invite users to “cover” their song “Apologize.” Other companies have sponsored video contests for their products. Such contests include “Dunkin Donuts: Get Things Done,” “Tobacco Free Florida,” “Nesquik,” “Schick Quattro,” “Chrysler 300: Spin It Your Way,” and others. View all current contests here.
Yet YouTube is not without its flaws. YouTube’s comment system has not been used as well as it could have been. In fact, comments on the site are notorious for being juvenile, immature, and even offensive. Additionally, due to the large numbers of videos uploaded daily, it is difficult to police copyright infringement. Thus, many television networks and movie producers have had to fight the site to have videos of their shows or films removed from the site in a timely manner. In the same way, the large number of videos uploaded daily has made it difficult to prevent other violations of YouTube’s terms of service. The site forbids videos that contain pornography, drug abuse, animal abuse, bomb making, a “shock” factor (car accidents, etc.), harassment, hate speech, and similar characteristics. But the site has struggled to delete such videos in a timely manner, including a cluster of Neo-Nazi and Holocaust-denying videos that remained on the site for five weeks after they were reported. All of these problems make YouTube less friendly and helpful than it could be.
Still, YouTube is a tremendous resource, and such offensive material is easily avoided.