Monday, December 1, 2008

YouTube- " The Web2.0 television of the new generation"

Have you ever forgotten how to change a flat tire or just needed to see a classic clip from your favorite TV show? Well, in recent years thanks to a popular video-sharing website called YouTube these worries have been easily resolved at the click of a mouse. In 2008, Alexa a web trafficking site ranked YouTube as the third most visited website on the Internet, behind search engines Yahoo! and Google. The pathway paved by YouTube within the Internet medium in its earlier stages where unheard of by any other website. It’s almost unbelievable that YouTube was just created some 3 years ago and has gone from a small collection of videos on a site to a prominent stake holder in the media arena. It seemed like it happened almost overnight when YouTube transformed itself into a television but what made it unique was that it was TV controlled by the you the user(hence the name YouTube). This idea of YouTube being like a television of the future was clearly transmitted in the sites choice of the mini television icon. However, the real distinctiveness of YouTube was that it was a place where someone could “broadcast themselves”. This new ability to view, post and comment on videos made by people from all around the world genuinely changed the face of the Internet forever. The emergence of this Web2.0 application opened up doors to an area of communication that no one has witnessed until now. Although just started in the winter of 05, YouTube has quickly taken the 21st century by storm and become a household name amongst many students, teachers, chefs, doctors, musicians, and countless others. So with YouTube becoming the go to website for almost any and everything, people feel they need to know more about the medium. Many fail to realize just how and why the medium has become so popular amongst our society today. These questions as well as others will be answered throughout this assignment to further highlight the popular website YouTube. The information researched will focus on the mediums history, who frequents the site, and its social implications. This research will hopefully give great insight into what the future holds for this every growing website.

YouTube sparked in late February of 2005 created by three PayPal website employees. Many popular media outlets reported the idea of the website came about when co-founders Chad Hurley and Steve Chen found problems sharing videos with friends from a dinner party they attended one night. However, stories contradict this so- called “digestible” representation of the websites creation by the media, say the founders. In another story the 3rd co-founder Jawed Karim actually denies there was even a party in which the entire story was constructed around. With so many stories there appears to be no direct answer as to when the idea of YouTube was thought of but there is paperwork proving their 1st investment loans from venture capital firm Sequoia Capital in late 05. Sequoia was genuinely the element which took this idea from a simple thought to a reality by investing millions of dollars in to this early-stage company. In the beginning the company’s main base was located in a small space in San Mateo, California. Researchers have documented that the domain name was actually purchased and activated on February 15, 2005 prior to investments loans. From the very beginning YouTube grew rapidly, reportedly having more then 70,000 new videos uploaded daily by users nationwide. In just a few months it seemed like the company took off into a whorl wind bringing in any and everything within its grasp. In the early months of YouTube’s existence it managed to tackle a benchmark no other website had before them. Wikipedia reports that in 2007 YouTube had consumed as much bandwidth as the entire Internet combined. In the months to follow YouTube continued to surpass its predecessors catching the eye of popular public cooperation Google Inc. In late 2006 Google purchased YouTube from Hurley, Chen, and Karim for $1.65 billion in an all stock transaction. This deal received some of the greatest media attention because of the huge cash out by co- founders. In an article in Forbes magazines June issue it was projected the 2008 revenue of YouTube to be at an estimated $200 million. If the successful early stages of YouTube say anything about the future of the company then the possibilities are endless.

Now with some history of this popular video-sharing website the focus can be shifted to audience whom play a key role in making the site what it has become and aspires to be. Anyone can agree that any successful website needs viewers especially a site like YouTube which is based around the posting/sharing of videos amongst the audience. Although, when it comes to YouTube the task of pin pointing a specific audience demographic is quite difficult for a number a reasons. One reason in particular is the fact that the site is frequented by so many different types’ of people at any given time, as stated earlier. For instance a chef could be on YouTube searching for videos of recipes, while a teacher could be using it to find clips to better teach their topic discussed in class. Then are those who simply go on YouTube for entertainment purposes like watching music videos or visual blogs posted by members. In last two year the diversity of YouTube’s audience became especially visible when country specialized versions of the site were launched around the world in areas ranging from Japan to Germany. The launch of these sites inadvertently created an even greater communication link between people from opposite ends of the world. Now someone from Belgium could see what was going in Japan through the eyes of someone just like them. The YouTube phenomenon had created a visual communication bound between cultures without the restrictions of societal norms. However in some of these countries many government officials have attempted to place their own restrictions on the site, not allowing certain information they consider “harmful” to surface. There was one case where there were plans to launch a Turkish version of YouTube but founders decided not to when Turkey wanted to control everything that went up on the site. This caused YouTube to revoke its invitation claiming that they refuse to be censored by Turkish law. Besides crossing cultural, racial, and ethnic barriers by creating various sister sites nationwide YouTube has also had an impact on the age demographic. YouTube unlike any other Internet medium has managed to capture the attention of the youth as well as the elders all at the same time. In an article in a British magazine it was stated that “YouTube is replacing the radio as the "discovery medium" of choice for young consumers, according to the fourth annual Convergence Consumer Survey from media law firm Olswang”. This is a reality that is becoming true amongst more and more people whom frequent YouTube not just the youth. It seems with the emergence of YouTube people are looking for something that is real not including all the restrictions imposed by society. It seems that the main reason why this can occur so easily on this website is truly because of the diversity of the sites audience. If this site was restricted to strictly one specific demographic group it would ruin the medium indefinitely. It would also begin to look a lot like the television that we watch now, simply filled with bias and opinions of the majority. As stated earlier without the audience this website would be nothing. The audience is essential in this case without them there would be no one to post, view, or comment.

Besides the audience playing a key role in the success of YouTube a look at some of the social implications of the medium will be looked at as well. The fact that YouTube is such a huge medium really explains why it has such an abundant amount of implications. Of these one of the main cultural implications of the YouTube medium is the ability to break communication barriers between different cultures. As stated earlier this medium allows for people of different areas to share raw/realistic videos with one another quite simply. On the flip side these videos in return could bring some negative implications allowing for people to get false ideas about certain cultures they see on YouTube. This would probably cause people to create false stereotypes about other cultures based on a video which may have not been accurate in its representation. Besides these two cultural implications there are also democratic implications on the medium. One democratic implication would have to be people’s ability to post videos onto YouTube without having to worry about restrictions or societal norms like news reporters would. This very same reason explains the mediums huge involvement with the recent Presidential Election of 2008.The section calledYouTube:"YouChoose" not only ran videos for the candidates but also created a whole separate area on the site where strictly election material was posted. It was stated in an Australian newspaper article that political campaigns as we know them are dead due to sites like YouTube. YouTube’s ability to be unbiased to a specific candidate unlike Television is what really set it apart. The website created a place where average people could stay updated on the candidate’s speeches, commercials, issues as well as various other aspects on the election. Besides the cultural and democratic implications discussed within YouTube there are also some group implications. The group implications of the medium are especially staggering because it was believed the whole idea of the site was to create an online community. Those within this online community would then actively communicate, share, and post videos amongst each other. Another group implication on the medium draws from the community idea as well. However this one in particular highlights the fairly new process of Blogging on an assortment of videos posted by members. This idea to a create blog clearly helped to generate that form of community amongst the people who shared common interest (i.e. politics,music,comedy,etc) on YouTube. This very idea was proven by Aaron Barlow in his book “Blogging America” when he discusses just how effective the blogospehere (Blogging community) could become within our society today. Now after looking at each of these implications of the YouTube medium the overall concept of the website can be better understood. It’s not simply the fact that people can post/share videos but they also have the power to control what they want to watch.

In conclusion, after getting an in-depth look at the video-sharing website YouTube it can be seen why it’s become so popular amongst our society today. The once small Web 2.0 application flourished into something no one could have imagined and continues to grow quickly today. YouTube seemed to come together almost overnight developing into a force to be reckoned with having just a year under its belt. The sturdy foundation along with the computer smarts of founders Chen, Hurley, and Karim really helped to catapult this website into society’s spotlight. Along with these the third and most important element of the site is the audience. The audience plays a very active role in this site ,they are the people who are continuing to take time to post videos and make comment on others videos. Even today some four years after the sites introduction it continues to grow and hold the title of one of the most viewed sites on the web. This website is unlike any other of its kind specifically because of its ability to adapt to the changing of society. Wikipedia, states that in November 2008, YouTube reached an agreement with MGM, Lions Gate Entertainment and CBS which will allow the companies to post full-length films and television shows on the site, accompanied by advertisements. This along with the various other upgrades predicated for YouTube could push this medium even further ahead of its competitors as premier communication medium. Whether YouTube continues to be successful or not, the fact remains it can be coined as one of the first successful sites to create an audience of people who could view what they wanted, when they wanted, at the click of mouse. All in all from this information researched the hopes this site will continue to become successful just foreshadows a bleak future for the Television set.


Lexis Nexis/Library Sources:
1. Morrissay, Brian. (2007). Inside the Promise & Peril of You Tube. Adweek. 10 Oct. 2008
2. Klaassen, Abbey. (2008) “You Tube: You created the Content Now Sell the Ads.” Advertising Age. 18 Nov 2008
3. Mcloed, Duncan. (2007). You Tube’s Troubles. Financial Mail.21 Nov 2008
4. Cardew, Ban. "Survey uncovers changing attitudes of youth market." Music Week. 22 Nov 2008..
Other Sources:
1.Barlow, Aaron. Blogging @merica. CT.: Praeger Publishers, 2008.
2.Chan, Tracey. "Insight into YouTube videos." Official Google Blog. 26 March 2008. Google Inc. 19 Nov 2008 .
3.Huang, Christine. "Knowing Your Audience on YouTube.." PSFK. 16 May 2008. 16 Nov 2008 .