If YouTube was a country it would be the world’s third largest by population. Culturally it’s just as significant, helping launch the Arab Spring (along with Justin Bieber and Psy). Which isn’t bad, for an eight year old.
Needless to say, plenty has changed since it launched. Not least Google’s acquisition, for $1.6billion, within months of go-live. A shrewd investment, the network is currently thought to be worth 45 times that amount, with video content becoming the most sought after online content between then and now.
Two years later, the American TV broadcaster NBC was amongst the first to be concerned about pirated recordings, demanding content be removed. A direct precursor to official terms and conditions regarding royalties and intellectual property, ironically the television station quickly u-turned, entering into a deal to screen promotional clips for forthcoming shows on YouTube. The first of many similar agreements, and another sign of things to come.
With Virgin Media subscribers and Apple TV owners now having the network wired into their package, and firms like Red Bull streaming live events on the platform (like that record-breaking stratospheric skydive) the original video social network is more like a multi-medium content channel these days. Mobile devices, PCs, plasma screens, and interactive sets all offer access to the website and its filmed treasures.
From amateur enthusiasts to major corporations, by the time U.S. Congress and Vatican City YouTube channels opened- in 2007 and 2009 respectively- the mainstream potential of the platform was more than evident. The popularity and perceived value of video began to increase exponentially too; everyone wanted to watch something, and businesses wanted to exploit that demand.
Having grown alongside the demand for video YouTube’s position as number one isn’t surprising. However, it’s no longer a one horse race. Rivals like Vimeo are slowly gaining ground, with 5million new members joining in the last 12 months alone. The closest competitor here in the UK, it still has plenty of catching up to do but exclusive deals with bands, brands and events prove those in charge understand what incentives will get people tuning in. And then there are the niche networks.
Twitter’s Vine lets you work with six seconds of footage. Similar to Keek’s 15-second idea, along with a host of other Apple and Android integrated equivalents (from Socialcam to Viddy), these short and sweet mobile options probably don’t pose an individual threat to YouTube. But collectively they could. There are only so many hours in the day, and the more people spend on rivals- most of which come with far less intrusive advertising- the less they have for the biggest fish in this saturated pond, meaning much more work will be necessary if it’s to stay in pole position.