Sunday, April 02, 2006

The Rise of YouTube

One month ago, I had never heard of YouTube. I had heard of earlier video sharing sites like ebaumsworld and Google Video, but I had never fallen into the trap of sitting there, watching video after video after video. That all changed with YouTube. There's just something. . .perfect about it. It lets anyone upload anything. The videos load quickly, and the video quality is good. If you want pornography, you can find it. If you want obscure TV show clips, you can find them. If you want whole episodes of TV shows, you can find them. If you want Russian animated shorts, you can find them. If you want cheesy short films made by stoned college students, you can find them.

When I first heard of YouTube, it was at a message board I frequent. But after I heard about it once, it was seemingly everywhere. Newspapers, TV stations and other forms of media had stories about the site and how it let people share their amateur creations. It also helped that NBC got the site to pull down the famous "Lazy Sunday" SNL skit, which only added to the site's ubiquity in the pop culture sphere.

I've never seen a site explode like this. I think it's safe to say that YouTube will become THE Internet video sharing site, much like eBay became THE auction site or Google became THE search engine. Google Video offers more historical and newsy content (for example, the National Archives section is full of interesting historical videos), but it doesn't seem to have the same hold on the Internet imagination that the sillier YouTube does (I don't know if that's a good thing or not).

Another thing YouTube has in its favor is the relative ease with which users who like a video can e-mail it to their friends or post it on their web site. It helps get the brand name out there in a very real way.

As I was watching video after video this afternoon, it struck me that YouTube could very well be the FUTURE of television. What we have now will assuredly seem crude to our future selves, but as the Internet enters more and more devices (especially handheld ones), on-demand video is going to be everywhere. And the equipment used to make quality films and TV shows is getting easier and easier to use and less and less expensive. At what point will independently produced TV shows thrown together by kids in dorms look just as snappy as the real thing? Who knows? But there's going to be a very real battle in the next 20 years or so. If you can get something just as good as what you might see on primetime for free on a YouTube anytime you want, why sit through ads? What purpose would something like HBO have in this world (I would imagine it would evolve even more into an "arthouse" type channel)?

I'm hardly the first one to put these thoughts together, and this is not even the first time I've talked about this particular subject, but I can see why YouTube has become so very popular, so very fast. People are getting a taste of the possibilities inherent in letting anyone post anything at any time. And it excites them.

And since they're so easy to share, here are some YouTube videos.

First, an award-winning animated short from the USSR. Some gorgeous animation here.

Next, two Star Wars fans duel in a light saber battle that actually apes Lucas' work rather well. It's even overlong like his stuff!

Now, Walt Disney explains the birds and the bees in "The Story of Menstruation."

Mortal Peep Fight seems to be the ultimate expression of stoner humor migrating on to the Internet.

And, finally, just because I like it, the opening sequence from Quantum Leap.

But head over to YouTube and do your own searching. You'll have fun. I promise.

1 comment:

Bean said...

The Story of Menstruation may be the greatest film ever made.