I apologize in advance as this writing isn't going to be very coherent, just some random things that have been bouncing around in my head lately.
With the news that Google purchased YouTube I've been thinking a lot about the nature of Video, and especially the role that video will play in the Internet. Up until now, and the near future, text is still going to be the main form of content that people consume in their online experience. However, when you look at the broader picture, and include television, movies, books, newspapers and magazines, is text still the dominant player? Do movies and tv get more attention than their print and ink brethren?
Multimedia used to be a hot buzzword in the late 90s with the first Dot-Com Boom, but the players there were definitely ahead of their time, as the bandwidth was just not available. Now that broadband has taken a mainstream position in society, all of a sudden multimedia content becomes a lot more viable. Enter Napster, YouTube, Flickr, etc.
So now that video is viable, and only going to increase in importance in the future, what does that mean? What forms will video take? My view on this is something that I recently changed; previously I saw YouTube as the video site, there's no real point in starting a video site because YouTube and the other big players already exist. However, this is wrong. Video is content just like text, it's just another form of content. The big sites take a vast majority of the video traffic, but I think, just like what happened with text, as the barrier to entry lowers you're going to see a lot more independent video sites.
Ok, let's step back a bit. My point here is that I want to parallel the rise of video content AS content, with the rise of text in the early days of the Internet. My initial feeling is that YouTube is kind of like the video version of Geocities. Anybody can join up, you have your friends/channels which are like Webrings, and then you have the more professional videos which are like the professional sites on Geocities.
And just like the mid-90s, Geocities wasn't the only thing around, you had AngelFire, and a bunch that I forget now, but I admit making use of to create totally awesome pages about Dragonball Z.
But what happened is that people saw the crappiness of working within the Geocities framework, the limited options for customization etc, and as knowledge of HTML spread, every 15 year old kid with a computer was making a page for their parent's business. There was a massive blowing apart of text content into completely separate and independent sites. This same thing hasn't happened with video, but I predict that it will within the next 2-3 years.
Going back to normal text again, what happened after everybody starting making their own websites is that it became impossible to find anything, and people did a lot of surfing. Remember that term? Then came Google, which brought together and made the Internet manageable again by letting people find what they wanted, quickly and easily.
I think the same thing is going to happen with Video. There's going to be the small-independent phase, and then some smart company, maybe Google, or maybe the NEXT Google is going to figure out a way to find what people are looking for quickly. Right now video search is important, but it's not THAT big of a deal since relatively speaking there's actually not THAT much video out there. In the next few years as bandwidth, storage, and equipment requirements drop, you're going to see a lot more video content appearing. At least I THINK so. But will it? I mean, will people starting creating video logs instead of written? We're already seeing video logs coming about, but I'm talking about en-masse.
What's exciting to me is that I have no idea. I think it's a forgone conclusion that video is going to take a much larger role on the Internet, and it's going to be cool to see how it'll grow beyond watching people hurt themselves, or dance in front of webcams. That's on the substance side.
On the technical side I'm looking forward to streaming video that doesn't look like those 300kbps RealVideo Dragonball Z episodes I was downloading in 1996. I don't mean high-def or anything like that, but at least iPod video quality or something around that. We already have the bandwidth for this kind of quality, so it's actually really annoying that YouTube's quality sucks so much.
I'd like to take this moment to submit a plea to Macromedia. You have a monopoly on the streaming video market. Video is the main use of flash now (outside of annoying banner ads), so it's worth it to everyone that you invest some hardcore R&D into making Flash 10 a fantastic video streaming technology. I'm positive that flash quality could increase without a substantial hit on bandwidth if they took the time to create a more specific client viewing technology, and provided more robust authoring tools.
The other thing I'm looking forward to, is in 5-10 years when we have the Web X.0 of Video. And you start seeing crazy ways that people are mixing up video, copying and pasting and all of that, just like anybody can do with text right now. Imagine doing a search for something like "knockout punches" and instantly you had one streaming video that was instantly created in real time that's just a montage (put to your own choice of music) of crazy knockouts.
What I think will be interesting to think about these next few years is looking at websites and content on the net, and figure out what would be better as video, and then wonder if/when it'll be replaced/supplemented.
Or maybe I'm just crazy and text is good enough, and there's no reason for people to adopt video content in such a massive way.