The problem with online video

I was browsing YouTube, DailyMotion, GoogleVideo, iFilm and Metacafe earlier. The french DailyMotion has huge amounts of piracy in it, way more serious than YouTube’s (e.g. all episodes of “Heroes” or “Lost” are uploaded and easily accessible in seconds). GoogleVideo and iFilm have smaller bits of piracy, usually parts of documentaries and such, rather than blatant full copies of hit shows. And then there’s Metacafe, which it seems to break the copyright law less than the rest. Searching for “Madonna” for example, it will only yield 2-3 Madonna results, while YouTube will yield 10,000. And from these 2-3 results, none is actually pirated.

So I decided to take a look at Metacafe a bit more. There is some interesting user-created video in there, like this one and this one. But if you check out the professionally-made videos on Metacafe, they are all commercials.

Now, go back to YouTube. Use your imagination and remove all copyrighted material from it (including user-created videos with cellphones from concerts) and see with what you’re left with: all allowed professional videos are actually commercials OR promotional material and most of the user-created ones are in fact commercials too. For example, searching for videos of gadgets (e.g. cellphones) made by users, are in fact commercials. When a user has just bought a new cellphone and he makes a video out of it, or he walks you through the UI of his new mp3 player, that is in fact a commercial — even if it’s interesting to watch and even if his intention was not as such.

I am not saying that other kind, non-commercial type of videos are not to be found on these video services. It’s just that I feel that 90% of the interesting non-pirated material is essentially commercials in one form or another. Maybe it’s a “new kind, user-created” kind of commercial, but a commercial nonetheless. Not a bad thing necessarily (usually they include useful info about products), but you know, it’s not what a person is looking for at the online video sites. Normal people want to watch music video clips, full or parts of documentaries, movies, TV shows and other copyrighted clips. This is what made YouTube the $1.6bn venue it is, not a random guy who’s recording his bungee-jumping. Take all that away, and online video is suddenly a boring place made out of videos shot with shaky cameras and terrible sound quality. But then again, maybe this is what it is supposed to be…

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