After yesterday’s post, I think I have the measure of my audience. You want to hear stories about me being incredibly mean to people. Fair enough, and I have a few good ones in mind – notably one about me being an angry clown at a school fete. But today there’s something I want to vent on.
So I’m finally jumping on the bandwagon and throwing in my 2c worth about the Google-YouTube merger. My main reason for adding my voice to the noise (this is probably the most over-discussed topic on the internet) is that I’m getting increasingly angry at the fact that so many commentators don’t have a fucking clue what they’re talking about.
The commentary I’m hearing that is flat-out wrong seems to fall into two camps: one, the people with a vested interest whose trashing of GooTube is based solely on promoting their own interests (Mark Cuban, anyone employed by Murdoch-owned companies) and two, people that don’t know the first thing about YouTube.
Talking from the inside of an experience is not without its pitfalls, cheerleaders for any service or organisation (e.g. Google, Microsoft) seem almost wilfully blind to flaws that are completely obvious to outsiders. But the staggering ignorance I keep seeing online and in mainstream media needs to be countered. So here I go, taking apart the bullshit:
1. YouTube is going to get sued out of existence. No it isn’t. This is so absurdly easy to disprove that I can’t believe it’s getting any play. YouTube can’t be successfully sued because if someone says they are illegally hosting copyrighted material, they take it down. The “safe harbour” provisions in US copyright law mean YouTube are completely within the law. END OF FUCKING STORY.
I am so sure of this that I’ll make a pledge: if anyone successfully sues YouTube for copyright infringement I will not only make a video admitting I was wrong, I will not only do so without my mask (and without using any tricks to obscure my face), I will perform the video completely nude!
I can safely make this pledge because (a) I am not wrong so I’ll never be forced to do the nude video and (b) if I was wrong, the nude video would get taken down straight away. My nudity is more offensive that normal nudity (offensive to good taste and aesthetics)
2. YouTube is going to lose content creators to pay sites. No they aren’t. YouTube has been built up by an army of content creators who never had any hope of being paid in money. What they are being paid in is attention. YouTube provides at least ten times the attention and interaction that its nearest competitor can offer. I think even YouTube undervalues this because many of their social interaction features are utter shit. This is where MySpace has it all over YouTube.
MySpace is not about video, it’s about social interaction – any talk about MySpace serving up as many as or more videos than YouTube are smoke and mirrors. They are without a doubt YouTube’s biggest threat but at the moment, people don’t go on MySpace primarily to access videos. If MySpace went about it the right way, they could most definitely steal YouTube’s thunder. GooTube could introduce a payment system for creators overnight (I’m calling it GooTube here because the payment model would almost certainly come through Google, a la AdSense) so this isn’t a problem for them. If they don’t fix the community aspects of the experience, that’s where they could end up being creamed.
3. Users will leave YouTube if the copyrighted material is taken down. No they won’t. First, it’s unlikely the copyrighted material is going away – companies are finally realising they need YouTube to tap into new markets. It’s just details that need to be worked out now. Second, even if all the copyrighted material did go away, all of the highest subscribed YouTube “channels” (i.e. content creators) create original content. It’s these highly subscribed contributors that give YouTube it’s stickiness and they would hardly suffer at all from even the most severe copyright regime. Third, as I mentioned before, one of YouTube’s biggest drivers is the desire for attention, not the desire to watch clips from TV shows and movies. The clips are a bonus but they aren’t the engine of YouTube’s continued growth.
4. YouTube will never make money. Wrong. Apparently YouTube have been lying to everyone and have been profitable for ages. The figures are collected here by Robert X Cringely, someone with enough experience to know. It’s almost embarrassing how wrong this assertion is. Plus, another blindingly obvious point: Google has so much fucking cash they don’t need YouTube to make money. They gave YouTube stock, not cash. This could well go down as one of the best deals of the internet age.
Those are the biggest issues I see clueless commentators pointing to, but there are doubtless more. What really boggles my mind is when otherwise intelligent people say brain-bendingly stupid things because they have no experience of YouTube. They talk about it from the outside and completely miss the point of what is going on. They would do well to take a leaf out of Warren Buffet’s book: during the dotcom bubble when he was under pressure from some shareholders to invest in dotcoms he refused, saying he didn’t know enough about what was happening to make an informed choice.
He turned out to be very astute as his investment company would have lost billions if he had listened to some people who claimed they knew what they were talking about. I wish more people who didn’t have a fucking clue what they’re talking about would admit it. I don’t know exactly what the future holds for GooTube, there’s a dozen things I could think of that could trip them up and probably dozens more possibilities that i can’t think of. But I know the majority of the doomsayers I’ve read are talking utter shit.