Is YouTube the next Napster?

Even on the Web, few companies have exploded at the pace of YouTube. Started by a couple of Paypal employees with the dream of allowing everyone to share their thoughts through Flash video, YouTube has become one of the biggest sites on the Web. I recently watched the democratic debate on YouTube, and like man others was amazed at how far the Internet has penetrated our lives.

But I wonder if I’m alone in missing the old YouTube. Does anyone else miss the days when the top videos were from video bloggers like Boh3m3 and PaperLillies, or even the bald Renetto? These people are still there, but they don’t capture the amount of attention of movie trailers, commercials, and Jay Leno outtakes. I wonder if others felt that the LonleyGirl15 scheme somehow cheapened what was becoming a really cool place for people to hear others opinions, and offer feedback.

Since it’s inception it seems like YouTube has been plagued by copyright infringement lawsuits. And recently a whole new round have begun. And in looking at YouTube now I have to wonder if they can weather the storm. Like most people my initial reaction is “It’s Google, they’ll figure it out†. But when I look at what YouTube has become I wonder about that. I have to wonder if YouTube is really just Napster 2.0 (I’m not counting that horribly bad business they have going on at right now).

What really separates the old Napster and the new YouTube? I’m sure many could argue that YouTube is not technically a peer-to-peer application, but let’s be honest, it’s people putting up videos for other people. And those videos are often copyrighted material of others.

And I can’t really say that I think Google is doing a very good job of preventing it. As a matter of fact, I would say that it appears that Google wants YouTube to contain copyrighted material. You don’t have to look very hard to find this material, it’s often on the top videos area. And as someone who works in the search engine optimization space, I know very well that if there is one company that is good at filtering out data based on a complicated algorithm, it’s Google. For example, try to find some porn on YouTube. Now I’m not saying I have looked…but there is none. That’s because YouTube is good at detecting terms, and relies on community feedback to block offensive material. They don’t really seem to put the same effort into preventing copyrighted material from being posted to the site.

And would it really hurt YouTube to not have this content there? I know in business you have to sometimes ride the stream that carries you to the most success, but it’s obvious even from the name of the site that the founders meant for YouTube to be about people posting their own videos to share, not post countless clips of Family Guy and movie trailers. I enjoy those things as much as the next guy, but can’t help but feel Google Video would be a better place for it.

In the end YouTube has become nearly as big of name as Google itself, and it’s hard to see that going away. But I doubt anyone reading this has not heard of Napster. Either way this goes, it will be interesting to see the outcome.

[tags]youtube, google, napster, lawsuits, family guy, jay leno[/tags]

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