YouTube is a video clip hosting site where anyone can upload and tag a video clip for others to watch and share with friends. Users vote for videos they like and can be sorted by popularity. There are thousands of short videos listed, in hundreds of categories, mostly user generated.
If YouTube can stay out of court, screen content appropriately, build its user base, and attract advertisers, they will have a very nice business. YouTube is the video equivalent of Napster...except it is legal. As many of you know, I was formerly VP of product development at Napster...before the courts shut us down :-(
"Whose tube is YouTube?" Om Malik has made many positive mentions of YouTube in his blog over the past several months. Om points out that YouTube is a lot like Napster. Meaning, there is a lot of copyrighted material posted on the site. My quick observation is that about 90% of the content is NOT copyrighted and is actually quite entertaining. NBC has issued a cease and desist order to YouTube over some Saturday Night Live clips on the site. YouTube is unlike Napster in that they HOST the video on their servers. Big legal difference.
Jason Calacanis suggests "YouTube is not a business" But what he really means is "I could build this thing in a week" and easily compete with YouTube. Jason offers to pay any two developers who will agree to develop a similar site within a week.
Fred Wilson of A VC blog responds to Jason, "Let me break it down for you Jason. Youtube is as much a business as MySpace or Digg which you cite as real businesses in your post. We are talking user generated content here and YouTube has captured the hearts and minds of the people as the place they go to post videos and find videos."
B2Day says "Rather than take down all the videos, NBC would be better off working with YouTube to either insert ads in all the clips or create an official SNL page on YouTube, as well as YouTube collection pages for other popular shows. Include the fan tribute videos (see above) that are sometimes funnier than the original clips. It's free marketing, guys! Figure it out. The people hanging out on YouTube fit exactly the young demographic that NBC (and SNL specifically) is trying harder and harder to reach."
My take is that YouTube has a legitimate business with user generated content. However, they will need to monitor the content for copyrighted material and use best efforts to take it down. They will also need some protections and screening for porn. There is already a fair amount of soft porn on the site. At some point this may become a problem with potential advertisers.
YouTube has the "cool factor" like MySpace does with the young audience. It would be easy for someone like Jason to replicate the technology and infrastructure necessary to compete with YouTube. In fact, there were many video hosting sites in existence long before YouTube came along. The hard part is to generate the same buzz and excitement with that audience that YouTube already has. It is not about the technology...it is about the community.