It was rumoured last week and it's true today: Google's bought YouTube. GooTube — or is it Yougle? — has achieved something unusual. No two people agree on how good an idea it is. The spectrum of responses ranges from rank idiocy to sublime genius, with most sprinkled somewhere around the middle.
The deal made Google money on the spot — at 2 percent of market cap, the stock swap pushed the share price up five points, and you have no idea how soiled I feel typing that sentence — and for that, the company gets 0.2 giga-eyeballs/day plus an enormous hosting bill.
The next question is: now that a $100bn company has taken charge of tens of millions of copyright infringements, will some of those copyright owners decide to send in their yellow-fanged lawyers? They might, but they'll have problems — as one disgruntled content owner said, the trouble with YouTube is that as soon as you complain about something, they take it down. Which, last time I looked, was a perfectly fair way to behave if you genuinely believe that most of your users aren't lying to you.
There may also be the glimmerings of realisation that the reason YouTube is working so well is that this is what the punters want — and perhaps it might be time to play along. When someone like Bill Gates admits happily to watching sport on YouTube, that war is over.
Let's say Google paid for good advice before slapping down their scrip, and that it shall come to pass that YouTube won't disappear tomorrow like a zebra carcass in a hyena feeding frenzy. What will they do with it?
It's Google. It'll do nothing tomorrow, and nothing the week after. It's happy that it's kept the biggest video-sharing brand out of Yahoo's grasp, although it nearly missed: Yahoo had the chance but couldn't close the deal — in a way it failed with Flickr.
There will be a time when we wander down jewel-encrusted online hallways, pausing to admire the AI's selection of user-contributed videos and bashfully offering our own, in whatever Googlefied Second Life environment the company has bought, grown or allowed to evolve. At the heart of that will be some ghostly YouTube DNA, and wrapped around it will be enhanced services, products and advertising best engineered to shift whatever money has become out of our virtual pockets.
It'll be beautiful, man. Trust me.
Or it's another sign of Bubble 2.0, and we'll all be back next year trying to rip off our mate's VHS tapes with a dusty old Amstrad VCR and flaky BNC to BNC leads.
Which way do you think it's going? Right. Me too.