Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Why everybody is wrong about Revver

Revver is moving closer to their 1.0 release which of course means I'm closer to being rich because all it takes is someone offering the possibility of money for me to automatically make a fortune, right? Well, probably not, but I'm getting more interested in the possibilities as Revver release more news. Those who are paying attention would remember that my recently published "Public Service Announcements" were inspired in part by the news Revver would be giving the opportunity to send videos to mobile devices.

The latest news that made me happy was that Revver would be hosting Flash versions of videos which I think is a major step forward because this was a significant hurdle to market penetration. I think Revver originally made the decision to host videos in QuickTime format because it's arguably higher quality but the marginal improvement in picture quality is a poor trade-off for losing usability. Simply put, not everyone has QuickTime but nearly everyone (98%+) has Flash. I, for one, can't watch QuickTime videos at work. A fact my workplace is undoubtedly extremely grateful for.

Also, I'm hoping the advent of Flash versions of Revver videos means Wordpress will support them. Wordpress are admirably cautious of the security implications of various types of embedded files but they came to a solution with YouTube. So pretty, pretty please Wordpress support folks - will you come up with a way to allow Revver videos to be added to blogs?

When I look at the coverage of Revver and what impact, if any, they will have on the online video market, the opinions seems to fall at one of two extremes of the spectrum. The biggest supporters say Revver will kill YouTube because Revver actually shares ad income while YouTube keeps it all. The biggest naysayers say Revver is simply too late to the game - YouTube has too much dominance and can't be overtaken.

Here's why they're both wrong:

Obviously, I'm keen for the idea of making money so I like that aspect of Revver but I think this will have a negligible impact on YouTube for two reasons. First, as I've stated before, the millions of people using YouTube now are doing it with no thought of being paid - not by YouTube anyway. They want the attention and they're getting it. People who don't understand the lure of attention for its own sake have never experienced it. Second, the vast majority of what's being posted and watched on YouTube simply won't work on Revver. Despite their talk of respecting copyright YouTube obviously doesn't give a shit because if you check out their "most viewed" page you'll see nearly all of it is either partly or wholly copyrighted material. So in other words, no matter what happens on Revver, it's likely to be business as usual for the majority of YouTube.

As to the folk who say Revver is simply too late, here's two reasons they're wrong. First, there seems to be this strange conceit in the IT world that they way things are today is the way things will always be. Tell that to Netscape and a dozen other IT companies who were top of the pile one day and crushed into the dirt the next. I personally think YouTube is going to be around for a while but saying they'll always be on top just because they are now and you can't imagine it any other way is unsupportable logically. Second, Revver doesn't need the teeming masses. It needs the best original videos that people really want to see. And paying people who are working hard to create original content is a damn good way to get them on your side.

Put simply, "eyeballs" are overrated. I thought people learned that in the dotcom bust. One million viewers who generate one million dollars in ad revenue are worth a lot more to you than one hundred million viewers who generate one million dollars. It costs a shitload for YouTube to host all their videos (they don't publicise exactly how much but I believe shitload is an accurate technical term) and it will be an ongoing challenge for them to manage costs. If Revver is able to generate better quality content to better quality viewers (i.e. a combination that results in proportionally more ad income) they will be winners.

The other interesting aspect of Revver's 1.0 launch is the new Terms of Service (ToS) I had to agree to. The intricacies of ToS for these types of sites got quite a bit of publicity recently when it was noted YouTube's ToS seemed to say "we own your shit and we'll do whatever we want with it and there's nothing you can do to stop us." YouTube clarified that all you have to do is take your videos down and all rights revert to you. Here's some gems from Revver's ToS:

"Although Revver will use reasonably commercial efforts to ensure Your Video Content is removed from the Revver Site within seventy-two (72) hours following termination, Revver shall have no obligation to remove any of Your Video Content that: (i) is otherwise publicly available through the Internet or other publicly accessible medium; or (ii) any of Your Video Content that has been re-distributed by Syndicators in the Revver Syndication Network or their end users"

This seems to be saying "Sure, we'll try to go along with what you want but if your video is out there in the wild on other sites, why should we give a shit?" I'm fine with this. Check out how keen they are to restrict "adult content" - all of the following are banned:

"d) any content which is intended to let users know that You have Adult Content materials, submissions, content or websites;
(e) any content which, because of the nature, images, music, tone or description appears to be designed solely to solicit sexual/adult talk or thoughts;
(f) any content that indicates that the author is engaging in sexually-oriented conduct or Adult Content;
(g) any content related to bestiality, rape, pornography, sex, incest, sex with graphic violence or degradation, excretory functions, bodily fluids, fisting and any other content, whether expressed or implied, which may be judged as obscene; and
(h) any content containing or referring to child pornography or suggestive of child sexuality, including references to "Lolita" or inclusion of images of or references to nude girls, boys, teens or children."

Well, I never liked Vladimir Nabakov so I'm OK with this. Although I can't be held responsible if the mere sight of my chiselled good looks inspires "sexual/adult talk or thoughts." And am I the only one who got a giggle out of the specific mention of "fisting". Really? Just me? Sorry. It's interesting how far they are going as there are rumours that Google Video are preparing specifically for adult content. Also, the restrictions on suggesting you are involved in adult content elsewhere would shut out some YouTubers who use "suggestive" videos to promote their porn websites elsewhere.

But seriously, Revver, if you want to get popular, run the "community" aspect well. Make it easy to interact with viewers, add comments to videos, subscribe to videos. YouTube's growth is due in no small part to this aspect but their handling of video comments is woeful. Seriously, it's absolutely shit. Just build the level of functionality that a blog has. Or even simply the ability to have a coherent threaded conversation that existed in Usenet in the 80s. It can't be that hard.

If you do this better than YouTube, that's how you'll kick their arse.

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