YouTube is to video what Flickr has been to photos. The Economist wrote about its evolution in April:
In December people were uploading 8,000 clips a day, and watching 3m a day. This month they were uploading 35,000 a day and watching 40m a day. With such amazing growth — almost all by word of mouth, e-mail and hyperlink — YouTube already has four times the traffic of Google Video, the online video market of the world’s largest search-engine firm, and the nearest thing to a rival.
The success of YouTube points to another development. People are spending an average of 15 minutes on the site during each visit, enough to view several short, funny clips. This is because they are using YouTube for little breaks during a dull workday. And it is a lean-forward experience, as people sit in front of computer screens. This clip culture, as Mr Hurley calls it, is quite different from the lean-back experience of enjoying a half-hour show while reclining on the sofa.
About 80% come from rank amateurs, and another 10% from dedicated amateurs, such as young comedians hoping to use internet celebrity as a way into a career. Unlike the big media companies looking to recycle their film libraries, Google Video and YouTube are simply giving ordinary people a way to share clips.
Hollywood Reporter captured the early days of YouTube in a March article:
In just a few months, YouTube has generated an inordinate amount of attention for a company with only 20 employees squeezed into a loft above a pizza parlor in San Mateo, Calif. Hurley founded the company in February 2005 with fellow twentysomething Steve Chen; both are former employees at online payment service PayPal.
YouTube is not a peer-to-peer service like Napster, but its video-hosting capabilities allow Internet surfers to stream videos easily from a Web page. Also unlike Napster, most of the video available is not entire TV episodes or movies but short clips no longer than three minutes.
That makes YouTube and its ilk ideal for showcasing homemade video of everything from baby’s first steps to frat-house pranks. But many of these sites are positively teeming with copyright-infringing footage snipped from current and past television shows and movies. There is no barrier to entry for illegal videos; users can upload whatever they want in less than a half-hour.
YouTube has become an online juggernaut seemingly overnight. Not long after its soft launch in May, viewers were watching 30 videos a day; by the time the company officially launched in December, it was 3 million. Today, YouTube has twice the traffic of Yahoo! Video and more than three times that of Google Video and AOL Video.
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