Youtube End Of Life

= Youtube End Of Life =

2017-03-24

Youtube began life in early 2005, and was originally just a place where you could post videos of whatever, for other people to see. At the time, website bandwidth was more tightly controlled and limited. You could host videos on your website, but if they “went viral” (had a very large number of views), you could find yourself paying a lot more per month for your website. Youtube was free, and so acted as a solution to this problem. You could host your video content there without any penalties, and simply point to your content from your existing website.

From its inception, Youtube quickly became a “community”. Of course, there were a lot of cute cat videos, and videos of people doing silly and stupid stuff, and the consequences. But it also became a place where people could act out in ways they never could anywhere else on the Internet. Thus arose Youtube “personalities”. These were people who otherwise would have had no outlet for doing and acting the way they did. Some personalities were pure put-ons. Some were real. But all of them became part of the broader “Youtube community”. The time they spent filming, editing and posting their videos was a labor of love.

Youtube was purchased by Google in 2006. This was met with skepticism in some quarters and yawns in others. Originally, Youtube continued without appreciable tampering by Google. It was ad-supported, like Google, making it a reasonable fit among the other properties purchased by Google.

Eventually, it was worked out that selected Youtubers could become “partners” and “monetize” their videos. In this way, Youtube could encourage content creators to improve the quality of their videos and encourage more people to post on the site. Some, with large audiences, could actually quit whatever they were doing otherwise to make Youtube their full time “job”.

It’s not certain (at least I’m not certain) that Youtube has ever made actual money for itself. It has survived based on investments by various investment firms and by Google, though the number of videos it hosts has risen exponentially. It became the de-facto repository of long and short form content on the World Wide Web.

Along the way, Youtube’s managers have struggled to improve the site by redesigning its interface and changing its rules. Infrastructure changes were enacted from the start because of the site’s phenomenal growth. At some point, because of its sheer size, Youtube stopped being a cozy “community”. It became a “business”. Changes in monetization policy have lead to people having to return to some other jobs to suppliment what had at one time been a comfortable living from Youtube dollars.

Youtube was originally “content agnostic”. Its managers and executives didn’t tamper with whatever one posted there, nor did they seem to care, so long as the content didn’t violate copyright laws or otherwise embroil Youtube in legal difficulties. But of course, with such freedom came inevitable conflicts within various countries. Chinese authorities wouldn’t allow certain kinds of content, German authorities didn’t like other kinds of content, etc.

Most recently, Youtube (along with a number of high profile social media companies) has signed on with European authorities to limit certain kinds of content which might be offensive to a tiny but vocal minority of viewers. They have enacted these “content curbs” by the mechanism of “demonetizing” various videos, which has hit many Youtubers directly in their pocketbooks.

While all this has gone on, another movement has grown in the background, unknown to any but those who are regular and/or avid viewers of Youtube. This is the rise of “networks” behind many of the Youtube content creators. The idea was that if a content creator signed on with a “network”, they could gain assistance in making their content better. They could take advantage of wardrobe, make-up, equipment, editing and other infrastructure services owned by the network for a share of the revenue from the channel. In addition, the network would also assist in acquiring sponsors for a channel.

The progression and power of the networks behind Youtube took place more or less invisibly over time. This was true until 2015, when one of the (if not the original) networks, Maker Studios, was sold to the Disney company for half a billion dollars.

As can be seen from the above, Youtube has been a “target” for large corporations almost from its inception. Thus its “personality” as a company has more or less drained away. The “community” aspect of Youtube has generally dissolved, to be replaced by corporate rules, censorship, and a general disregard for the people who originally made the site great– content creators. This is a fact widely bemoaned by those who have forsaken their other jobs to make Youtube their primary source of income.

One of the most recent developments has pointed up how things are changing (and not for the better) at Youtube. “SourceFed”, one of the larger channels on Youtube, has ceased production and had fired all of its employees. This channel, and several others, was the original creation of Philip DeFranco, one of the original partners in Maker Studios. Philip created a number of popular programs and channels. But like many Youtube properties, it was supported by investors. This means that it was not supporting itself with ad revenue. So some years back, DeFranco sold all or almost all his slate of channels to Discovery (the TV network). He continued on participating in the sites, but ultimately (early 2017) the owners dropped the hammer on the whole raft of DeFranco’s sites.

(Parenthetically, SourceFed uncharacteristically researched some search engine (read Google) quirks leading up to the 2016 U.S. presidential elections. They revealed that Google was unquestionably censoring and weighting its search results in favor of presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and against presidential candidate Donald Trump. The bias was clear, and further investigation found that one or more board members of Google’s parent company were large supporters of Clinton. SourceFed’s research was solid, and they promised to follow up with even more damning evidence of corporate bias at Google. But the follow-up never came. We may never know if the follow-up was crushed by Youtube and Google, and it’s not known if this incident had any bearing on the liquidation of SourceFed and its sister channels.)

Other Youtubers have seen their revenues drop precipitously on account of Youtube’s censorship and arbitrarily changing corporate rules. Some have also noticed larger and larger glitches in Youtube’s technological framework. However you look at it, between the networks, Youtube, Google, and perhaps some other background factors, the site has become inhospitable toward many of its content creators. This is a model for how to kill a brand. Many of Youtube’s biggest stars are looking elsewhere for a better platform to host their content. And some, like Minds.com and Gab.ai are waiting in the wings to fulfil this role.

One other point of importance to be made here is that enterprises supported mostly by investors are not truly successful, no matter how “successful” they look. Unless your activity can be supported by funding from the sales of its own services, you’re at the mercy of investors. And their patience and generosity will only go so far. When the money from these folks runs out, you’re left with an activity which cannot support itself and is generally doomed to failure.