Monday, January 29, 2007

It's official: Google have decided to kill all of YouTube's competitors

What almost everybody has predicted for a while is now apparently a fact: Google have decided to enable revenue sharing for content creators on YouTube. This is effectively a death warrant for every single YouTube competitor (interestingly, they've effectively killed Google Video too). None of them have managed to make the remotest dent in YouTube's popularity, even when they have tried paying contributors and YouTube hasn't.

YouTube has consistently beat out any competitors by a handy margin in terms of how many people watch and contribute. Now that they're going to be providing an opportunity for content creators to make money, all of their competitors are going to become digital ghost towns. I mean, more than they are now. While this development has obvious appeal for me (is YouTube going to provide my post 500 milestone for me?) I can think of one obvious drawback.

People are arseholes.

YouTube has one of the greatest concentration of arseholes on the internet. They come in many flavours, from the common or garden variety of hater to racists and other zealots to those who game the system. It's this last group of arseholes who are going to have the biggest impact on the success (or otherwise) of YouTube as a paid medium.

In the current YouTube world where there are NO direct rewards for how many times a video is viewed, there are still hundreds of "cheaters" who employ various methods to raise their profile. And by this I mean methods other than actually being so good that thousands of people want to watch them. And they do this for... nothing.

The truly bizarre thing to me is that many of these people who spoof the system truly gain nothing by doing it. They don't feature themselves in the videos so they aren't going to gain any "fame". They don't produce other videos so they aren't gaining attention for their "real" work by proxy. They gain nothing but they frustrate thousands of legitimate users. For what? So they can say they got a million views on YouTube? Maybe I'm missing something but this seems like the epitome of fucked up to me.

I think it's distinctly possible that the "cheating" will get so out of control once there's money involved that the resulting disaster will make YouTube implode. Not likely but possible. The one area that YouTube is still a long way from getting right is the user/community aspect. The paid model could very well degrade the user experience even further. A truly scary prospect for anyone who's been trying to cope with the dog's breakfast that is YouTube today.

I wish YouTube wasn't so opaque. I wish I knew what was going on inside. I wish I knew what they were planning to do with the "community" aspect. I wish I knew what they were planning to do with cheaters. But my crystal ball is on the fritz. So we're going to have to wait and see.

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