Farhad Manjoo over at Slate is prophesying the end of YouTube. It costs far too much to run, he says. It is hemorrhaging cash. Maybe it will continue to tick on in some form, but not as the no-cost free-for-all that it is now. In other words, goodbye to the free storage, the free watching, and the free borrowing of anything and everything that you liked, loved, or loathed.
When I read this column earlier today my heart constricted a little. Not because I'm surfing YouTube all the time. But the content YouTube generates is present in scores of the ways I use the web. Like many an internet browser my heart is a lonely hunter and I skip around to lots of sites during the week, look for specific content in scores of different places. Art blogs, political blogs, personal blogs etc., most all of them embed video and a big portion of that video content they are pulling from YouTube. Then there is my personal use of the YouTube. Mainly, I'll be honest, that means treating it like a video Wikipedia. I hit it for basic stuff, like promos to things I follow or quotes from politicians or a visual record of some kind etc., like a great big memory bank. But the "oops let me check my encyclopedia" impulse toward YouTube is only part of it. Our ability to torture or convulse our fellow man is intimately tied up in YouTube. My sister Sarah plaguing me with the same Naked Eye music video during every shared endeavor? YouTube. The undeniable pleasure of watching Adolf Hitler rap Notorious BIG? Also YouTube.
I feel sad in advance for YouTube, because I sense Manjoo must be right. Take a look at the figures in his article. No business can lose cash like that for long. So the video forum of everything and nothing will have to change. And it will probably require more registering for things, and maybe money, and maybe subscriptions and other things that will dampen the glut of free info.
Maybe it won't feel that different when the changes come, but my guess is it will make events like Susan Boyle more impossible. She sings one night and once the video goes viral millions watch it after the fact. Not all these people regularly use YouTube. But because it is so easy to stop in and see what is the fuss about some video, they will. In the future, when the massive video clearing houses require registration or payment, maybe not. In the meantime, I want to savor YouTube. Just today it gave me one of the most feel good moments of my year so far.
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