YouTube Check-Up — 11 Years In

The logo for YouTube is a red box with a white arrow in the center, forming a play button. The play button along with the name let people who don’t know the site get the idea that it is a video site before even clicking on it. Once on the site there is a home button with recommended videos and a trending button which shows the most popular videos at the moment. There is a blue sign in button next to a white upload button. This gives the idea that uploading videos is as easy as signing in, making more people open to the thought of making videos, creating more content. Scrolling down shows many videos, all with a bright thumbnail and a title. With the sheer amount of videos, creators have to pull in viewers as they scroll through and they do that by having an eye-catching picture and interesting title. At the bottom of the screen there’s a load more button which brings a new selection of videos underneath any current selection. The amount of videos on the front page and the wide selection are enough to interest any person who might be looking at the site.

People post and watch videos on YouTube in a wide spread of genres from gaming and makeup tutorials to the news. Many people watch the best clips from TV shows on YouTube instead of watching the entire show. Those that make videos mainly choose to do so as a hobby or as a way to make money. Some creators have also become mega-stars, making millions of dollars a year and catching the interest of large companies who are moving in to YouTube as it becomes more and more popular.

YouTube claims they have over 1 billion users and they’re constantly getting more with people watching for increasingly longer amounts of time. If you’re reading this right now, I’d bet you’ve watched your fair share of YouTube videos just as I have. It’s becoming a huge global source of entertainment. YouTube also claims that it “provides a forum for people to connect, inform, and inspire others across the globe”. We’ll investigate a few aspects of it to look into that claim.

What Makes YouTube Successful?

There are hundreds of hours of video being uploaded every minute. It wouldn’t ever be possible to watch all of that content. But, that does give users an endless amount of things to watch. Pretty much all of this content is offered for free (with one main exception that I will bring up later). Creators make money from advertisements on videos and merchandise instead of forcing all viewers to pay to the site or them directly. This opens YouTube up to everyone with an internet connection, making it a place where people from around the world can interact. It is also largely independent, allowing people to become famous based on their talents.

Josh Abramson is a co-founder of the once popular video site, Vimeo. He talked about why Vimeo fell as YouTube rose in an article on Forbes:

“The moment that I finally realized something was fundamentally changing about how people would share and discover video online was when the Lazy Sunday SNL video exploded and took YouTube up with it. Our restrictions on Vimeo did not allow for a video like this to make it online, so we watched from the sidelines as YouTube’s traffic flew past Vimeo”

YouTube built itself up as a place to share and create while Vimeo was more focused on not being sued for copyright and in the end, Vimeo became obsolete partly because of that. (Side note, it’s obsolete to the point that Medium thinks I’m misspelling something when I type “Vimeo”)

What Hurts YouTube’s Success?

YouTube results from searching “YouTube copyright”

Recently, copyright has become a huge issue for many creators and viewers alike. People are making pushes to copyright certain video styles and ideas as the site becomes more mainstream and profitable. Creators get copyright claims on their videos all the time for questionable reasons and they are very damaging because of the way YouTube handles this. YouTube doesn’t have employees looking for breaches in copyright, they instead have a system in which other people can claim videos and the responsibility for resolving those claims falls on the creators. People misusing this system often go unpunished because almost everything on YouTube is done through algorithms which make some aspects more efficient, but are awful at dealing with things like copyright. There are cases of popular creators taking down others’ videos for criticizing them or using some of their content within the confines of copyright law. There are also cases of popular creators violating copyright law and not being punished. As there aren’t many people actually looking at these claims this system has become largely misused.

With many viewers using ad-blockers (add-ons to web browsers that block all advertisements), taking away the main way many people make money, YouTube has looked for a more lucrative way to host content. They created YouTube Red, a place where users can watch videos without ads that contains premium content not published on YouTube. It’s a service that costs $9.99 a month, making it more in line with websites like Netflix. Many users aren’t at all open to the idea of paying for something that they’ve always enjoyed for free.

Where YouTube has fallen behind in certain things like live streaming, other sites have risen, like Twitch. Many gamers have been transitioning to Twitch as its seen as a more engaging format for users and creators.

So, YouTube rose to popularity by hosting and allowing mainly independent users to share endless amounts of video at no cost to creators or viewers. In recent years though, there have been costs added and some creativity has been taken away by increasing copyright enforcement. Other video sites have risen and fallen around YouTube in its 11-year lifespan. Does YouTube connect, inform, and inspire its users and if so, will it continue to?

Abramson, Josh. “Why Did YouTube Succeed Where Vimeo Failed?” Forbes., 17 July 2012. Web. 16 February 2016.

“Statistics” YouTube. Web. 13 February 2016.

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