YouTube turns 5: still waiting to be Google's killer app

YouTube turns 5: still waiting to be Google's killer app

Summary: Google has been in almost as much privacy-related hot water as Facebook lately, but none of that matters for YouTube which turns 5 today.


2 billion. That's a big number. 2,000,000,000. As Google points out, that is significantly more traffic than US broadcast television networks get, although Americans continue to watch much more television than YouTube in total hours. However, as Internet-connected set-top boxes begin to emerge and people begin consuming more media via their computers and other converged devices (the iPad, for example), YouTube is poised to scale even further in usage, stickiness, and even profitability.

Google has said repeatedly that it expects YouTube to actually be profitable this year. It's hard to believe that any service with YouTube's traffic still isn't making money, but Google (and YouTube's competitors) have struggled to monetize video services. How, for example, do you sell ads to companies gunshy about selling their products next to Lady Gaga's "Telephone" video? And how do agencies, individuals and organizations who build their brands around and with their YouTube channels respond to ads on their pages?

Now that YouTube channels are gaining popularity and YouTube is automatically handling voice recognition on uploaded video, keyword ad targeting may get a lot easier, but YouTube still faces significant challenges in the context of Google's traditional ad-based revenue scheme.

On the other hand, YouTube is largely unsullied by any of Google's privacy concerns and is so dominant in the industry that it has few real competitors (at least in the consumer upload and YouTube channel spaces). There is a reason that Google spent 1.65 billion on the property three and half years ago. The potential to make money on this platform is so extraordinary, that one has to wonder how much Google's other businesses (aside from straight search) will even matter long term.

As Google continues to clean up copyrighted material in the videos on YouTube and negotiates content deals with studios and content producers to take on Hulu, Netflix, and Blockbuster, monetization outside of search and ads becomes even easier.

Google Apps faces an uphill battle (I'm linking here for perspective, not because I agree with Zack - I'll deal with him later). Google Books is mired in legal wrangling. Google keeps stepping in privacy landmines with StreetView, Buzz, and even search history. YouTube, however, is a potential cash cow nearly at the tipping point of online media dominance. 2 billion quick hits a day is only scratching the surface of what it will be, assuming Google can aggressively address copyright and DRM issues.

Topics: Google, Social Enterprise

Christopher Dawson

About Christopher Dawson

Chris Dawson is a freelance writer, consultant, and policy advocate with 20 years of experience in education, technology, and the intersection of the two.

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  • RE: YouTube: 2 billion downloads/day = Google's killer app

    Thus far, there are three scholarly books available on the subject of YouTube:

    The YouTube Reader, (2009) Edited by Snickars and Vonderau
    YouTube: Online Video and Participatory Culture, (2009) by Burgess and Green

    and this one:

    Watching YouTube: Extraordinary Videos by Ordinary People (University of Toronto Press, 2010).

    Table of Contents

    1. Home Movies in a Global Village
    2. The Home and Family on YouTube
    3. Video Diaries: The Real You in YouTube
    4. Women of the ??????Tube
    5. The YouTube Community
    6. The YouTube Wars: Elections, Religion, and Armed Conflict
    7. The Post-television Audience

    -- Dr. Strangelove
    • So?

      Are you spamming?
  • Google could use YouTube to give Chrome (the browser) and Chrome OS a boost

    They could make the YouTube experience 2nd to none on their own platform. Also could be a good way to push the VP8 codec as an HTML5 standard.
  • RE: YouTube: 2 billion downloads/day = Google's killer app

    What I like about Youtube is I can find information on interesting topics "right now" - that is, when I am ready to sit and watch something.<br><br>When I was a kid, we'd get the tv schedule from the newspaper and literally plan our viewing week based on the network schedules - this show this night, that after school special that afternoon, this movie on that night...and if you're stuck in traffic and miss it, you miss it.<br><br>Then came video rentals, now the Sunday night movie wasn't a must see, because I could go and rent it...<br><br>Then came pay-per-view movie channels - more convenient still, but there's that nagging "have to pay for it" thing.<br><br>Now, with youtube, I can check out "how a differential works" or "how a transmission works" or "how helical/planetary gears work" and see illustrative videos, or check out video of ships being tossed about like bath toys on the seas, or...whatever I want, when I want.<br><br>The same way we listen to radio for free, paid by advertising, is the same way we should be able to watch video content on the internet. It's just a matter of attrition, as we let go of "yesteryear" and move on with modern technologies.<br><br>And, along with the professional content, there's always the eyeballs that come to youtube for the amateur content, the "real people" putting up home movies and saying to friends, "check out aunt Edna falling out of the boat!"
    Non-techie Talk
    • RE: YouTube: 2 billion downloads/day = Google's killer app

      @NontechieTalk You say "The same way we listen to radio for free, paid by advertising"
      Hmmm...I wonder why you didn't say "The same way we watch TV for free, paid by advertising"
      • RE: YouTube: 2 billion downloads/day = Google's killer app

        @qwerty521 Good question. In part, because TV likely costs more to produce than radio...?? I can't pretend to speak intelligently to the economic realities of financing TV production. But, I'm pretty sure that it's a lot more complicated than radio, since you're dealing with colour, definition, pixels, etc. while radio remains relatively uni-dimensional - it's all sound, microphones are cheaper than cameras, and people don't have to look good to sound good on radio, but do have to look good on TV.

        But, don't miss the point - it's about "on demand". The new paradigm empowers users to watch or listen to what they want, when they want, rather than being controlled by a network's scheduling.

        That's one of the key factors making the internet a compelling force.
        Non-techie Talk
  • YouTube rocks!!

    I've learnt so MUCH from watching YT videos: CRM, various underground documentaries, programming tutorials, herbal medicine using pure hemp oil (cannabis) via "Run from the Cure: The Rick Simpson Story, etc.
    Hopefully, it'll put Fox and traditional "idiot box" TV out of business.
  • Ah, YouTube. Still an incompetent mess, years later.

    It's ugly. It presents 640 x 360 video as "HD". Not only does the comment system not work, but the comments themselves reveal the craven stupidity of the human race like no other forum.<br><br>Now users are allowed to deface the video-player area with idiotic comment boxes.<br><br>Looking at the failure of Google Video, and Google's inability to grasp the simple reason that this failure occurred, pokes a lot of holes in Google's aura of omniscience. Looking at the unprofitable mess that is YouTube pokes more holes. Google spent an obscene amount of money to reward a total lack of business planning or diligence, and has failed to turn it into anything better.<br><br>Google does search well and has leveraged its power in that arena well. Google Maps set a new standard for its role. But beyond those notable successes, Google doesn't look all that bullet-proof.
    • RE: YouTube: 2 billion downloads/day = Google's killer app


      Odd then that when I download a video from YouTube (using the Video DownloadHelper Firefox extension) labeled as 720p HD, it plays back in VLC at a resolution of 1280 x 720. Of course, you would be disappointed if you were expecting anything approaching the bitrate of broadcast 720p, much less Blu-ray, but to assert that they misrepresent the resolution is simply incorrect.
    • RE: YouTube: 2 billion downloads/day = Google's killer app


      Well you aren't going to be bullet proof in this day and age when you try to actually provide quality services rather than lock people in to your subpar services. Its fine to point out the flaws of Google but you talk as if some company out there is actually doing a better job.