on Sep 2, 2008
This site turned three years old yesterday.
Looking back, I see a lot of posts that I’m proud of. There are posts from that first year that I still point to and talk about. But there are also goofy posts where I was amusingly wrong about things, and those can be fun to read for completely different reasons.
Two and a half years ago I stumbled on a site called “YouTube” or somesuch. I wrote about it, and how I couldn’t wrap my head around it. It looked like like a thin coat of respectability over the old filesharing model, spiked with a bit of dot-com foolishness – here was a site that was going to consume massive bandwidth (money) with no real way to make money.
Just two and a half years later and YouTube is more than just a household name, it’s a cultural force. Rather than turning into a big useless filesharing depot like I expected, it’s become a worldwide stage where would-be entertainers can attempt to build an audience. It’s doing to television what HTML did for books. It’s not replacing it, but it’s providing a way for people to do an end-run around traditional publishing methods. You can reach an audience for free, provided you don’t expect to get paid up-front. I’ve even made my own humble video contributions.
It’s pretty strange to see it going on. To this day, I still don’t see how they pay for the bandwidth. Yes, bandwidth has gotten cheaper (which is one of the things that made YouTube possible in the first place) but without so much as a banner ad, I can’t imagine they aren’t losing money at an incredible rate. But since YouTube was bought out by Google, I guess they can afford that sort of thing.
One interesting thing is how video quality has evolved as bandwidth has continually gotten cheaper. Imitators have cropped up, and in all cases their main selling point is the higher quality video. I’ve even heard people use “YouTube-ish” as an adjective to describe grainy, over-compressed video. YouTube is trying to correct this by introducing “hi-res” mode, and I would imagine at some point they’re going to make the sharper video the default unless they want to become the AOL of online video. But the only reason they have this problem is because they were first.
The next big thing?
Shamus Young is an old-school OpenGL programmer, author, and composer. He runs this site and if anything is broken you should probably blame him.