Would There Be A YouTube Without MySpace?

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YouTube’s explosion onto the Internet scene was no accident. It was timing – timing so fortuitous that you might compare it to an alignment of the planets. YouTube didn’t rise in a vacuum, but it rose in the House of MySpace, to continue the astrology analogy, with a number of other forces in play.

These conditions are outlined in a case study presented by former Oracle engineer Deepak Thomas and BlueRun Venture Principal and co-founder of Riya, Vineet Buch.

It would have been fun to see what a fortuneteller might have predicted for the would-be startup back in 2005, to see if there really were some set of magical, esoteric conditions driving it long before the hindsight of 2007 set in, relegating those conditions to mere anomalous synchronicities – or "coincidences," to the less pretentious.

Rather than any of these terms, Thomas and Buch referred to it as a "perfect storm of environmental factors." Among them:

  • Cheaper bandwidth giving way to higher broadband penetration, allowing an audience impossible in the years before.
  • A state of online video limited by the speed of downloads on file-sharing sites, un-sharable, un-linkable, un-sendable, un-commentable, un-showable. Videos on the Net existed in isolation as files cumbersome to access in more than one place at a time.
  • Cheaper production technology: digital video cameras, camera phones, editing software, USB cables.
  • Growing numbers of users looking to the Internet for entertainment, rather than information alone.
  • Cheaper from the platform side "to store, manage, and serve large repositories of content."

And while all of those things came to being at the same time YouTube came into being, along with some other acts of God like the Southeast Asian tsunami and Janet Jackson’s Super Bowl Nipplegate, there was one other tide rising that would carry YouTube to the promised land of a Google acquisition:

MySpace. Thomas and Buch point out that the without swelling MySpace, YouTube’s video widget allowing social networkers to embed videos on profiles, or without the copious amounts of YouTube links appearing there, it’s hard to say if YouTube would have become as successful as it did. YouTube made video sharing easy, while MySpace provided the place to share the videos.

And while that’s all well and good, the history and conditions of things leading to a startups mega-success, what does it mean to the ambitious of 2007 – eons later in the evolution of the Web – who want to take video to its next level. When is the next perfect storm?

Thomas and Buch have their own ideas, centering on higher video resolution, continually declining bandwidth costs, WiMax, and the transition from the computer to the television.

That prediction is quite technical, and most likely correct. But here’s what I think, from a consumer point of view:

If you want the masses to become as entranced, as zombified as they are now with television, where time spent as well as numbers of viewers matters most, then the next revolution should center on ways to make it even easier to watch online video than it is now. That ease of viewing, besides the great timing of MySpace’s success, was the biggest factor in YouTube’s success.

If you can create a platform that makes it as easy and as seamless to watch online video as it is on television, then you’ve got something. You’ve got tried-and-true monetizable channels of content flowing in a way that is familiar to the bulk of consumers – even the latecomers.

At some point, while search will still be a valuable tool for users, most will grow tired of always having to search for content or having to hear about it through the grapevine or paying attention to tags. They still will do these things, but one-stop, effortless viewing will push whatever this platform is to the next plateau.

And if you ask me, Blinkx is ahead of the game on this one. Though searchable video is the bread and butter, the videos on Blinkx stream from one to the next in succession. And that’s nice. In a few years, we’ll look back at it and think how rudimentary a platform like that was, because there is farther (much farther) to go with online video delivery yet, but we’ll see it as the first crack of a breakthrough.     

But definitely don’t count the big dogs out. Google, Yahoo, AOL, Microsoft are already have relationships with the right people – the networks, the motion picture industry, the access providers, the technological innovators. Chances are, unless some sprout of a startup beats them to it (or is swallowed up by them) these giants will be the ones to make that final breakthrough.   

Would There Be A YouTube Without MySpace?
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