What is YouTube?
YouTube is a video-sharing website that is changing American culture. It seems that every day, some short video clip on YouTube makes headline news. Here's the story behind the phenomenal success of YouTube, and some tips on how you can join the fun...
YouTube: 100 Million Videos Strong
Youtube was created by three pals from PayPal - Chad Hurley, Steve Chen and Jawed Karim - who raised $3.5 million in venture capital to debut their open exchange video site in November 2005. Less than a year later, Google bought YouTube for $1.65 billion. Can you say "cha ching?"
The concept is brilliantly simple. People post videos on YouTube and watch and comment on the videos others have posted. The videos can be anything from a simple rant into a cell phone camera by a frustrated teenager to a favorite sports clip Tivo'd off of ESPN - and everything in between. The numbers generated by YouTube are staggering. One hundred million videos are on the YouTube servers, with 65,000 new ones uploaded every day. They're watched by 20 million viewers a month.
The simplicity of the technology has aided its popularity. YouTube uses the popular Macromedia FlashPlayer 7 and the Sorenson Spark H.263 codec - which offers the combined quality of Windows Media Player and Apple's QuickTime without the need to download additional browser plug-ins. In simpler terms, you click and the video plays... period.
A Cultural Power Shift
Comedian Judson Laipply's six minute "Evolution of Dance," an entertaining journey through the history of dance styles, is the all time most popular video on YouTube with close to 41 million hits. It earned him appearances on Good Morning America and a dozen more national television outlets.
Another clip posted on YouTube last November showed the arrest of alleged gang member William Cardenas, triggering an FBI investigation into police-brutality. And here's a reminder that things are not always as they seem... In May 2006, the Lonelygirl15 video diaries appeared on YouTube, chronicling the small-town life of an American teenager named Bree. The series became wildly popular, but a few months later it was discovered that Bree was actually an actress from New Zealand, hired by two guys from California to pull off an elaborate publicity stunt.
There are dozens of others like these who have found instant Internet celebrity by dancing, singing, mixing Mentos with Coke, posting odd video resumes, and in any number of other creative ways. That is part of the YouTube phenomenon. It's simplicity and global reach - and it's youthful demographics - are driving and changing traditional news media, entertainment, even business and politics.
YouTube: Joining the Fray
To join the YouTube community, go to the sign up page at www.youtube.com, choose a user name and password, and enter your basic information. Then click the "Sign Up" button and you're in. Browsing the millions of videos available is simple. After creating a free account, you can browse through 12 categories, search by keyword or simply check out what's popular that day. If you like one particular video you can subscribe to that user's future videos, using clear prompts on every new video page.
Uploading your own video is almost as simple. A video should be 10 minutes or less and less than 100 MB. Click "Upload Videos" in the upper right hand corner of a YouTube page, and enter as much information as you wish. Click "Go Upload a File," locate the file on your hard drive, then click "Upload Video". YouTube does not allow any video that portrays graphic sex and violence. Those that do are quickly flagged and taken down, as are any that proffer hatred or other potentially offensive material.
Although YouTube is an open exchange, it is possible to make your videos available only to a small group of family, friends or business associates. Either choose between "Private" or "Public" when you first upload, or, after uploading your video, click "Edit Video Info," scroll down to the Broadcast section and select "Private."
The YouTube Community
Youtube is a true global community - with numerous user groups and contests to encourage users to create their own videos, reachable through the "Community" button on any page. The contests might focus on ways to spend a tax refund, telling your darkest secrets, or creating a new music video and some have large cash prizes.
Youtube discourages users from downloading videos to their own computers, preferring that they watch videos online. However, you may embed videos in your own website. Copy the code from the embed box found under "About this Video" on the right while the video is playing. Copy the code, then paste it into your website or blog to embed it.
There are a number of other video sharing sites - including DailyMotion, Blip TV, and Vimeo. Video on the web is growing exponentially, but so far nothing can match the cultural impact or enormous volume of YouTube.
Got comments about YouTube or video sharing? Post your thoughts below...
Posted by Bob Rankin on 5 Feb 2007
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Article information: AskBobRankin -- What is YouTube? (Posted: 5 Feb 2007)
Copyright © 2005 - Bob Rankin - All Rights Reserved