These are clips.
The length varies. Sometimes the clip is less than a minute. Sometimes it’s the length of a TV segment, about 8 minutes. But this is not what the TV industry expected when it started talking about "the video Web" a decade ago.
And it has spun out of their control. It has impacted everything — not just politics. It has changed our relationship to the most important medum of our times, video. And it’s often jaw-droppingly funny.
What made this happen was YouTube, which broke the Web’s "TV barrier."
YouTube’s innovation was really quite simple. They traded screen size for resolution. A YouTube window covers a full quarter of your screen, while a standard MPEG window goes just a few inches on a side. They also standardized the use of codes to enable people to either embed or link to videos in a straightforward manner.
The result was an explosion of creativity, and a brand new Web. Not to mention bringing a whole new term to the mainstream, vlogging.
But the copyright industries are about to change that.
Many media sites, including newspapers like The Washington Post, have recently taken to embedding videos on their pages. These are standard MPEGs. But they have two assets YouTube doesn’t have. First, they have commercials in front of them, hence a business model. More important, they are licensed.
The next step, and we can expect this any day, is going to be spamigation by all sorts of copyright holders. Networks, cable nets, movie outfits, and the music industry. The sites will be trying to force users into seeing clips only where they are, and grab all the ad revenue the clips are capable of delivering.
The RIAA’s aim will be to kill YouTube, which lacks a business model. (The music lawsuits are the most troubling, because they go after the amateurs whose videos gave the site its first kick.)
Before YouTube is sold to anyone, for any amount of money, these legal questions need to be dealt with.
Another important point, which the copyright industries still miss, is the time and bandwidth question.
Copyright holders have always believed that video usage on the Web would be asymmetrical, in regard to both time and bandwidth. That is, people would spend all their bandwidth downloading, and all of their time watching video.
YouTube smashes this thesis. Amateur videos cracked open the market. The power to upload is key. Most YouTube videos are only played a few hundred or a few thousand times, total. And the heaviest YouTube users spend a lot more of their time creating videos — either saving, coding and uploading them (in the case of coypright content) or filming, editing and producing them (in the case of amateur content) — than they do watching them.
This will, I hope, change our view of broadband requirements, and create demand for faster, symmetrical links.
That, and the copyright backlash against YouTube, may define the next year on the Web.