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Strategic insights
YouTube, nice try...

Written by on April 18, 2006

In January I reviewed Google Video. In short I beat it with a virtual stick until I was satisfied that it was no good at all. Google Video is a hyped up piece of wasted efforts.

Then, about 15 days later YouTube came along, featuring basically the same as Google Video, without all the hype and commercial undertones. The question is now. Is it any better? Well, yes and no.

The Good Part

Unlike Google Video, YouTube is actually a full site. You got meaningful navigation, categorizations, tagging, discussions, comments, rating systems and a lot of other nifty things you would expect from any serious community based site. It even got a nice Web 2.0 kinda smell to it.

Unlike Google Video you can actually search for something and find it. Every search I tried resulted in much more meaningful results. And, the search results are also much more user-friendly in their presentation. With Google Video you are not really sure what you are going to see until you have wasted time clicking on the thing.

YouTube not only show 3 images from the video, but also a description, how long it is and its rating (plus some other insignificant things). That makes searching videos much more useful.

Sorting videos is also slightly better than Google Video, not good, but slightly better. It mostly does what it says, but that does not necessarily make it usable.

The problematic parts

Both Google Video and YouTube suffer from a wretched syndrome of marketing. Instead of providing meaningful titles and descriptions, people write "The best video ever" or something similarly useless.

And, similar to Google Video, even the videos that have meaningful titles lack consistency. If a video is part of a series, then it is often named something different. This makes watching all of them a very timely experience - most of which is spent searching for the next part.

The really bad parts

Unlike Google Video, YouTube's video viewer is useless. It is too small to be able to see anything on - Google does a much better job here. In order to use the controls you need to be good a guessing. What for instance does a little square with an even smaller square inside it mean? - next to another little square with nothing inside it, next to yet another square with a number of small wiggly things at each corner.

My first guess was that it had something to do with the size of the video. I guessed correctly that the last one would put everything into full-screen. The second one appeared to do nothing, and the first one made the already too small video screen, even smaller.

Then there is the trouble of bandwidth. Similar to Google Video, streaming is many times impossible. I got a 4Mbps DSL, which basically means that I can download DVD-quality videos live. But YouTube is seriously lacking a proper internet connection.

Watching a 10 minute video usually means that you need to wait 20 minutes for it to download. And, unless you want to watch 3 seconds of video at the time (with 6 seconds of pause in between), you need to pause the entire video and wait for it to complete the download.

And remember that these videos are not DVD quality, or even remotely near it. It is low-quality "I-can-hardly-see-anything-from-those-pixels" type of videos.

BTW: Google Video also has this problem, but not as bad as this.

Video Piracy

Like Google Video there an amazing amount of illegal content on YouTube. But, YouTube is actively doing something to correct this (so has Google lately), but there is still a very long way to go.

YouTube, you can do better

YouTube is not as bad as Google Video, but for a video site - it need a lot more focus on the actual presentation of these movies. As it is now it is more like a community site that happens to include videos - than the other way around.

YouTube also needs to sort out the bandwidth problems, remove the illegal content and provide better video specific tools for viewers and publishers.

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Thomas Baekdal

Thomas Baekdal

Founder of Baekdal, author, writer, strategic consultant, and new media advocate.

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