YouTube not letting users far enough behind the curtain

youtube_logo.jpgI just saw a cool feature on YouTube called TestTube. The purpose of TestTube is to allow the community of users to alpha and beta test new features that are being developed for inclusion on the main site. This is all well and good, but YouTube is not fully leveraging their community of users. They could actually learn a thing or two from Dell. Yes, I said Dell.

A while back I posted about Dell's IdeaStorm site, a crowdsourcing initiative that allows users to suggest new products, give their feedback on existing products and services and vote on which should be brought to market. Dell's IdeaStorm site has prompted 3571 ideas to date with 200,000+ community votes and almost 10,000 comments.

Marketers used to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars doing focus groups to get this type of user feedback in order to develop new products. Now, all you have to do is be willing to open up the process and make good on your promises. YouTube has the devoted following that could make this extremely successful, why not use those creative voices to create a more powerful experience.

It's fine to let YouTube's very talented engineers brings new features to the community, but imagine the possibilities of letting the users make the suggestions. Let them flush out the details, take ownership of ideas and vote for what they feel is most beneficial.

(Here is a screenshot of the current TestTube site promoting two features in active development.)


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Forget the consumer?

What is going on in some marketer's heads right now? It seems like the consumer is the last thing running through their minds as people move to protect and segregate content away from the masses. I've posted about the Viacom/YouTube lawsuit and potential impact to each site, but in the end the consumer loses and that's unfortunate.

video_together.pngHere is what the video landscape looked like just a few months ago. Youtube was the quick starting, innovative new contender on the scene. Users flocked in record numbers and showed marketers that the days of users being limited by technology to create content are over. From a user perspective, YouTube was ideal, a one-stop shop. It combined user-generated content with normal broadcast video content published by consumers. Music artists took to the medium and published pre-releases to their videos. Consumers showed their love of some brands by creating their own mashups and sharing them with friends. Agency.com used the site to publish a forced "viral" campaign that got many people in the industry interested in the possibilities.

video_separated.pngBut, this was short-lived. Here is a representation of what it looks like today. Users have to criss-cross the net to find what they want. The interactivity and commenting is not as powerful, the numbers of people watching each is drastically lower than that of YouTube and there may even be a little self-censorship going on every now and then as properties protect their sponsors and investors.

Here is a quick overview of the video content space from my viewpoint. It shows where each entity is heading with their recent moves. Customers want control, they want Tivo not regular TV. They want all of the content in one place, on-demand and they want quality on top of all of that.

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The anti-consumer actions being taken in this space seems natural in the context of the internet. Think Napster vs. RIAA. How many more artists were people exposed to in that time period than ever see the light of day today. Again, Napster had the content in one place, the user had control and the companies broke it up. I wonder if the power of the citizen media can help out this time. Do you think these companies care about consumers or is it just the short-term dollar?

Loyalty breeds long-term profit. The more long-term they think the better off they'd be or somebody is going to beat them to the next new thing. But, I guess they'll just keep litigating and not innovating.

UPDATE: Check out Paul McEnany's post on the NBC/News Co. venture (dubbed "ClownCo" by Google) as well as Michael Arrington's post here. Make sure to read the last segment on Arrington's post, it's extremely telling of NBC's arrogance.

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Viacom v. YouTube, litigation v. innovation?

youtube_logo.jpgA while back, when Viacom sent their cease and desist letter to YouTube/Google, I wrote a post declaring that it was getting ugly. It's beyond ugly now, it's downright hideous. Viacom is suing YouTube for $1 billion in damages. Yes I said $1 billion.

Om Malik @ GigaOm has a great post which sums up a couple of key points:


  • Viacom missed out a couple of years ago to create a YouTube-like network
  • Viacom is behind the 8 ball and is doing this in part to catch-up
  • There is question if YouTube is even violating the law
  • YouTube's traffic numbers spiked after the takedown announcement and continue to rise

I understand what Viacom's rationale is. It's their material, but at some point you have to look at what is more valuable...the eyeballs or the content. Consumers are choosing where they consume content. The era of content creators dictating where these venues are is coming to a close. Consumers are in control and publishers should a) realize this is happening and b) put their content where the most people can see it and come up with a plan to monetize it.

Wouldn't Viacom be better off in the end to provide high-quality videos with pre-roll ads on YouTube? Does their litigious stance show they really care about the customers?

Paul's not happy about this either.


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Is Viacom censoring content?

Viacom_logo.gifAfter the Viacom cease and desist order was sent to YouTube a lot of clips were taken off of the YouTube servers. People like myself who use their embedded videos are having to go back and remove content or explain why videos are missing.

My previous post on Cingular's name change to AT&T (I mean at&t) used just such a video. I referenced a segment clip from the Colbert Report on Comedy Central where Steven Colbert explains the confusion surrounding the matter and the pure ego of at&t.

I just noticed this clip was one of the ones effected, so I went to look for a replacement. Comedy Central's site has most of Colbert's clips for viewing. But, for some reason the Cingular clip isn't there. I did a search on the word Cingular and had no results...except one entry with a Cingular promotion.

I am wondering if Comedy Central held this clip off on purpose to not piss off Cingular, or maybe I am just not seeing it (I've looked for a while though). It just makes me wonder, when a company like Viacom removes content publishing from the masses like this (and I just read that NBC may be the next company to go on the offensive), how does the consumer suffer? What else won't get posted to appease a sponsor.

I know that Viacom owns the content, but I don't know that removing it from the masses like this is beneficial to them. There are shows that I watch now because I saw clips on YouTube, there is no way I would have seen them otherwise, there is just too much content. More eyeballs are a good thing. Maybe Viacom is just a little bit jealous that they're not the ones who created YouTube.

(Oddly I did find the video available on Google Video Canada and another version on YouTube that hasn't been pulled yet.)


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OpenID and why you should care

1148194262.pngIf you are a regular web user like myself, you probably have passwords and usernames scattered across hundreds of sites, spanning the past 8-9 years of your online life. Does your online banking username and password resemble your login to your wacky aunt's baby photo sharing site? Or does your password arsenal need NSA top-secret-clearance-carrying cryptologists to help you uncover the right combination of characters? How do you store those usernames and passwords? More importantly, what helps prevent other people from claiming to be you?

Wouldn't it be nice to have them all in one place and have a third-party verify that you are who you say you are? This has been tried before, but by partial companies. Microsoft's Wallet centralized e-commerce application failed miserably and Google's new checkout application may follow in the same footsteps.

What you need is an open, decentralized, free system for digital user-centric identity. It just so happens that is what OpenID is. First and foremost OpenID is not a trust system. The system is an identity verification system. Trust is only given by users once they determine if it's warranted.

Let's use the example of two bloggers leaving comments on one another's posts. In the diagram below, each person is using a different publishing system and they want to interact with each other through comments. OpenID works where I go to your blog and enter my blog URI. Your blog checks back to my ID server (behind the scenes) and authorizes that I am who I say I am. Your blogging system then populates my comment information on your form. I enter my comment and it comes into your queue. You look at the comment, click back to my blog and decide if you trust me (if I am a new commenter). If you do decide to trust me you approve the comment, if not, you delete it. The same thing happens when you come to my blog and submit a comment. My system validates your identity through your ID server. I then determine if I trust you.

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OpenID saves time for Internet users and centralizes the storage of identity information. The decentralized nature of the verification keeps people honest. If someone lies about their identity, they can be reported and when they interact in the future they would be flagged.

The biggest reason to care about OpenID is the fact that Yahoo and Microsoft have thrown their support behind the system. Those two powerhouses are validating the concept and the fact that this type of system should be independent of corporate influence.

For an awesome take on this, check out the following video done by identity 2.0 maven Dick Hardt of Sxip Identity. It's a marvelous presentation and shows the challenges of identity 2.0.





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Tracking online trends and buzz

There are a couple of sites I use to track trends and buzz. One of those is BuzzMetrics BlogPulse which tracks keywords in blog posts across the Internet. I was curious, given Vista's recent launch, what the level of buzz was in comparison to the iPhone release.

It isn't even close. You can clearly see in the chart below the blue spike is the release of the iPhone and the orange spike is the Vista on-sale. This goes as much to Apple's tight secrecy on the device versus Microsoft's 3 year death march toward Vista's release.


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Trends like these can give you a window into your users and popular culture. You don't need an expensive buzz tracking service to get an idea of what's happening. Use the following sites (my favorites) to keep your fingers on the pulse of your business or industry:


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Yahoo playing advertising catch-up

yahoo-logo-735610.jpgYahoo's long-delayed new advertising system, code named project Panama, is in the process of launching. Yahoo has been trying to catch up to Google and Microsoft for quite some time and Panama is expected to bridge the gap.

Yahoo needs this project to be successful in order to increase its revenues and lift its stock prices. The next step is for Yahoo to try to gain ground in the search volume race. Right now the change in model doesn't mean a lot without more volume and more impressions. For media professionals, it's just another disparate system to learn, for Yahoo this could determine their relevance as a search powerhouse.


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Viacom v. Google getting ugly

youtube_logo.jpgViacom's takedown order to Google hasn't come as a complete shock to most. There is quite a bit of material up on YouTube which belongs to other companies, but Google has operated under the protection of the Digital Millenium Copyright Act whereby they remove any unauthorized clips on request. This most recent request was much more public and hostile and the outcome has long-term legal implications.

Cory Doctorow @ BoingBoing brings up a great point on the method with which Viacom notified Google via spammed requests.

Per Cory:

Viacom did a general search on YouTube for any term related to any of its shows, and then spammed YouTube with 100,000 DMCA take-down notices alleging that all of these clips infringed its copyright and demanding that they be censored off the Internet.

This bulk search method caught other non-Viacom clips in the search. Viacom has also asked Google to keep future clips of their programs off the Google sites. This is not covered under the safe harbor act in the DMCA, clips are only removed on request. It'll be very interesting to see how Google responds.

March 13, 2007 -- UPDATE: Viacom has decided to sue YouTube for $1 billion.

March 14, 2007 -- UPDATE: See my latest post titled "Viacom v. YouTube, litigation v. innovation?


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Free speech on the Internet

shush1.jpgI came across a post on Threadwatch titled 'Google and Other Internet Giants to Create a Code of Conduct'. My first instinct when I read this was one of a tempered mix of interest and dismay. Basically Google, Microsoft, Yahoo! and Vodafone are working with a couple of national rights groups to make sure that companies are held accountable when helping to suppress free speech or commit human rights violations.

A couple of points here are important. Yahoo! has already widely been accused (multiple times) for giving up information on a Chinese bloggers which led to their arrest and imprisonment. Google and Microsoft have been accused of enforcing censorship within China as well. Vodafone is the only company of the four which has escaped accusations on the internet. I wonder if these previous rights violators and perpetuators of censorship will adhere to their own rules.

Now, I hold some personal admiration for these companies. They're creators of incredible solutions which have led to personal empowerment and brought terabytes of information  to millions of people. The bigger question here I think is why these companies should be allowed to create any such code (other than them wanting to). Is this like allowing felons to write new laws on the crimes they've already committed. What's the penalty if they're found in violation of the policies? Who monitors it? Who makes sure that small companies are protected? Who makes sure the people of the world are protected?

I am not saying this policy is not needed. It is. This could, and I hope it would, work for these big companies. This is a serious matter which is central to what the Internet is all about, freeing information and voices.

But why not have the internet community participate in this discussion and democratize this process? The people own the Internet. We're talking about a set of global operating principles here that reach far beyond US borders. Could a wiki be created to allow Internet users to weigh in and help to craft the guiding laws which will effect them and their children? It surely seems possible.

What are your thoughts on this? Are these companies trying to do the right thing or is this a PR move plain and simple? The outcome is vital to freedom of speech around the world.

 

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Google gives incentive for using Checkout

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I just saw the message in the image above on the Google home page offering users $10 to use Google Checkout. This is an interesting tactic to increase awareness of Checkout as well as showcase some of Google's key commerce partners.

I am personally torn on using Checkout. I understand the concept and the reason Google is trying to succeed where other giants have failed (read MS Wallet). I do hesitate to use it though as I am comfortable with the vendors I buy through online and this would mean that Google has access to my credit card and address info. That's one of the reasons that MS Wallet failed in the first place. Why would someone use this service over going to Amazon?


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Google extending browser to mobile

personalized_home.gifI'd posted earlier this month about a feature on Yellowpages.com where the user can have listing information sent directly to their mobile device. I saw this article on LifeHacker (a great site with lots of great time savers) about Google's click-to-call feature.

Basically, Google Maps is allowing users surfing the web to call a business based on the listing information and connect it to the user's mobile device (or any phone really). So let's say you're looking for a dry cleaner. You go on Google Maps and search based on where you are. Once the filtered listings come back you find the one closest to you and there is a link to call. Google then asks for your phone number and calls you, then connects to the business. Viola. You're talking.

Businesses who can extend their services to take advantage of mobile technology will be more ready to take advantage of the true mobile web. These basic steps are necessary to build confidence and show the true power of portable, relevant, time saving technology.


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MySpace v. Google Video v. MySpace

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Interesting to see the Google trends for YouTube's jump up to the MySpace level. The spike in the YouTube line that brings it neck-and-neck is on the day of the Google acquisition. Google Video on its own hit a plateau possibly explaining Google's move.


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Google releases AdSense API beta

Google just released their beta for the AdSense API which will allow developers to create and manage AdSense accounts as well as have more control over the appearance of the ads on the site. Stay tuned.

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Vint Cerf at City Club of Cleveland

I had the chance to hear Vint Cerf, Chief Internet Evangelist of Google and co-creator of the TCP/IP protocol which is the foundation of the Internet. Vint is widely credited as one of the founders of the Internet. The content of his speech was very relevant and informative. He started with an explanation of his work on protocols and gave one of the best examples of the way the Internet works (at the protocol level) I've ever heard...fitting I know. He compared the protocol to postcards in the mail. The explanation went through all of the iterations of data and how TCP handles it. Think of trying to mail someone a 100 page book and all you can use are postcards. Well, you would have to cut the pages of the book to fit on the cards first. So now you have ~200 cards you need to send. If you put them in the mail as is, how would the other person know what order they were in? So you have to number them. You also need to know if the other person received the cards so you have a confirmation. If you don't get a confirmation you need to re-send certain cards. Archives, storage, quantity, etc. are all factors which came up and what TCP handles. He then moved on to the net neutrality topic and as you can imagine, with Vint working for Google, he is anti-legislation. I agree with his premise. The net, as he envisioned/s it is meant to be free in order to encourage innovation. Broadband subscribers pay to be connected to the net and access anything they want. The legislation proposed by carriers would limit what the end user was able to see. It's a form of censorship by proxy. The less limitations on content the better. Vint also discussed his work with NASA and improving communication with the Mars exploration program. They have developed and are testing a new protocol which would allow data to be sent, saved at a location and sent on at a later point in time on a delay. Finally, one of the most important points I got out of what he said was in the Q&A. He discussed the spread of the iPod and the change in content delivery this signals. No longer is 'live' important. The shift is toward on-demand. That demand may be faster than realtime (on a 1 gigabit connection) or slower than realtime (on a 56K modem). Either way, it is the person requesting the content on their schedule using the connection available.

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