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How YouTube Redefined Internet Video

Every once in a while, some invention comes along and changes the face of the Web forever. At first, it was the Search Engine (Google), then the Wiki (Wikipedia), then Social Networking (Facebook).The first two allowed the better organization of information. The third gave us a new way to interact and socialize.

Another notable example of these inventions, though, came about in 2006. It was Internet video, which was introduced to us by YouTube. Using a whole new different format for video, the FLV (or Flash Video), it changed the way we think about video on the Internet. It gave us not only a new type of entertainment, but also gave us a new means of self-expression and interaction.

Why did YouTube come to be such a hit?  

Well, in the pre-YouTube era, video on the Internet was, may I say, such a pain. When one wanted to see videos of their favourite artists’ music videos, they had to download large AVI’s or MPEG’s. And the catch? These only showed portions of the video. When one wanted to have a good laugh and find some funny videos on the internet, the same thing: download gigantic files.

Someone saw this problem and attempted to create solutions that didn’t quite live up to the expectations of netizens. This was the embedding of videos on web pages. A few companies who tried their luck on this technique were Microsoft (Windows Media Player), Apple (Quicktime), Real (RealPlayer), and many, many others who used ActiveX controls. It solved the problem of having to download the video files. Now, it was possible to view videos without saving them to your disk first, because it was viewable on one’s web browser.  

It seemed to work for a while until people became tired of installing these third-party applications just to be able to watch videos on their web browser. There was also the possibility of viruses and Trojans when installing ActiveX controls.  Not to mention them leaving lots of useless junk on one’s registry and disk space, which slows down one’s computer.  And more often than not, these installations just don’t seem to work because of proprietary reasons, or because they are not compatible with one’s system.

Yes, it was all a pain. Then came YouTube.

Why did it become such a hit? Because it solved the problems stated above and more: It gave us 1) An easy way to PLAY Internet video, 2) An easy way to LOOK FOR  the videos you want, 3) A new way of self-expression, and 4) A new way to interact. Let me expound.

First, how did YouTube ease the viewing of Internet videos? First of all, one no longer has to download and install third-party applications, except for the Flash player, which is already installed in 99.1% of all web users on the Internet. Just go to a page where a flash video is embedded, and voila, the video plays.

Second, YouTube has search feature, which allows users to view only those videos that interest them. Just enter some key words and videos related to them will be listed. YouTube organizes videos into categories like “Comedy”, “News”, “Music”, so one can browse through videos by category. This is especially useful when you do not know exactly what you are looking for using the search feature. YouTube also has a “Related Videos” section, which minimizes the need to keep searching for the videos you want to view. It just examines its records to know what videos other users (who viewed the video you are viewing now) tended to also view. It also analyzes the video (by means of its description) and looks for videos with similar descriptions. In short, YouTube is like your personal butler for videos. It gives you what you want and when you want it.

Third, not only did YouTube allow users to view videos created by the media industry, it allows users to be their own actors, directors and producers of video. One just needs a video camera, a web cam, or even a phone that can record videos. Once you have a video ready, just upload it into YouTube. No hassle because YouTube hosts your video.

Lastly, because one can upload videos, users can comment on them, rate them, and reply to them. They can create their own accounts, to which other users can subscribe so they can be notified whenever the user uploads new content.

Years later after it has been launched, YouTube is still being used by everyone. Whether you are just bored and looking for something fun to watch, or when you want to share to the world your own videos, just open YouTube and before you know it, you’ve had hours and hours of pure entertainment.

Truly, YouTube can claim to have solved the “video” problem of the Internet. It has earned the right to be considered one of the greatest inventions on the Internet.