Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Google, Youtube and the Napster Effect

So it's happened. Given the success of the MySpace exit, Youtube was always going to attract its fair share of suitors. It's just a shame that 2 of the most promising plays in the Web 2.0 era, have cashed in. It's the equivalent of Google, Yahoo, Ebay and Amazon selling out 5 years ago to the Microsofts, Viacoms and WalMarts.

No prizes for guessing who the winners are here - the founders of Youtube - Hurley & Chen - who, having seen it happen to their earlier employer - Paypal, have now walked successfully down that road themselves.

Google is a winner too, sort of. As one of the quoted analysts mention, this essentially adds a whole lot to their inventory. They still need to integrate the search technology, work out better indexing and delivery but its all good from there.

Big Media are happy too - they have much greater leverage with a listed and wealthier entity than with a start up with no revenues or business model. They can exert a much greater influence on their content, and the pirated versions therein.

The only losers in this deal may be the punters. The 50 million people who come to the site to see the latest gaffes from George Bush or the Peter Crouch wonder-goal, or just sample the range content from weird to wonderful, and from inane to inspired. For them, the crack down on "illegal content" may take a chunk out of the Youtube allure.

If the Napster story taught us anything though, it's that preventing 50 million people from doing something they really want to online, is like trying to prevent ageing. If indeed there is a crackdown on the pirated content on Youtube, it will create a whole generation of YouTube clones. Which will be a whole lot harder to track and take down, but equally, harder to find - you'll have to be in the know as a consumer, as to which site is the flavour of the month for your favourite content. They will appear occasionally on Wired Magazine and on geeky message boards and other places where digital culture builds its crossroads.


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