I see Rafe Needleman is reporting that YouTube are going to start streaming video in hi-def imminently.
According to Needleman:
YouTube co-founder Steve Chen, speaking at the NewTeeVee Live conference today, confirmed that high-quality YouTube video streams are coming soon…. the service is testing a player that detects the speed of the viewer’s Net connection and serves up higher-quality video if they want it.
Chen also confirmed that YouTube stores the native quality of the originally uploaded video – this is no surprise to iPhone or iPod Touch owners who have a hi-def YouTube service already.
Pilar gave me an iPod Touch for my birthday the other day and, wow I love it!
As you can see, it looks fantastic. The interface is unbelievably slick and surprisingly responsive. Using Nokia smart phones means I have become used to devices this size being slow but there is absolutely no lag on the iPod Touch.
The browser is fantastic, esp. for my feed reading. YouTube videos are way better quality than on the site. In fact the video resolution, in general is spectacular.
The only negative thing is that synching with the computer can sometimes take a while so don’t try to synch as you are about to run out the door!
Other than that I have now realised how much better the iPhone experience must be – uh oh!
If this were any other country you wouldn’t believe it but the Great Firewall of China has started re-directing traffic from the three major search engines (Yahoo!, Live.com and Google) to the Chinese owned search engine Baidu.com!
Other sites such as YouTube.com and Google’s BlogSearch are reportedly also being re-directed.
China has previously blocked sites like WordPress.com but this is the first report of it re-directing to a Chinese competitor.
I’ll bet the guys in Google, Yahoo! and Microsoft who bent over backwards to facilitate the Chinese governments censorship of Chinese Internet traffic (even to the point of Yahoo!’s handing over evidence which imprisoned a Chinese reporter for 10 years) are feeling pretty dumb now. If they don’t, they should.
This end result for people living in China is that their choice of search engine has now disappeared and the Chinese government only has to worry about controlling the results one search engine displays. A sad day for Internet freedoms in China.
Of course, it will also hit the income stream for Google, Microsoft and Yahoo! but given that they lay down with the Chinese government, I have a real hard time feeling sorry for them.
UPDATE – conflicting reports are emerging about this story, some are reporting that the story is untrue however, search engine expert Danny Sullivan has received confirmation from Google that there are problems with some of their services in China.
According to this post on the Google Maps blog site, it is now possible to embed Google Maps on your own site in the same way you can embed YouTube videos.
The image below is of the industrial park where we are building the CIX data centre
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Much has been said about the fact that Viacom are suing Google for $1bn because YouTube (now owned by Google) hosted Viacom copyrighted shows.
Technically, Viacom are well within their rights to sue Google for this copyright infringement but what good does it do Viacom, apart from adding up to $1bn to their bottom line, if they win?
They will have lost massive goodwill and a ton of free PR! How much traffic was YouTube sending to Viacom and how much free publicity were Viacom shows receiving by being featured on YouTube?
Robert Scoble, speaking on this topic the other day said:
PodTech tried that strategy. To watch my videos you used to have to go to PodTech. Then in January we let go a little bit of our controlling attitude and made a player that you can embed on your own site. What happened?
PodTech, by allowing people to place in their blogs PodTech’s copyrighted videos, tripled their audience.
Viacom on the other hand have forced YouTube to take down Viacom’s copyrighted videos and are suing YouTube.
Is there even a short-term gain for Viacom here?
Joel Spolsky has written an interesting critique of Windows Vista where he points out that there are up to 15 ways to turn a Windows Vista computer off (I can think of a 16th – don’t license it and Windows will automatically disable your computer!).
He goes on to suggest ways to trim the number of choices down and effectively bring the number of options down to one or two.
However, Joel uses an out of date reference in his article. He says:
The more choices you give people, the harder it is for them to choose, and the unhappier they’ll feel. See, for example, Barry Schwartz’s book, The Paradox of Choice.
What Joel presumably doesn’t realise is that the Paradox of Choice’s findings have since been discredited by the authors of the paper on which Schwartz himself based his book. In their follow-up paper Knowing What You Like versus Discovering What You Want: The Influence of Choice Making Goals on Decision Satisfaction, the authors realised that when choice was ordered in ways which helped the consumer, more choice is better. Hence the success of Amazon, YouTube, Netflix, etc.
However, in the case of Vista, as Joel points out, who knows the difference between Hibernate and Sleep or Lock/Log Off/Switch User? In this case, it does seem Microsoft haven’t gone far enough to explain the differences and therefore only succeed in confusing their users.
Following on from YouTube’s success in garnering audience, Microsoft have rolled out their own video sharing site called Soapbox. Right now, the site is in closed beta but I applied for an account and had one on a couple of hours!
The site runs out of Flash which means it looks very well, but it can take some time to load up initially. An idea might be to have a “Loading…” image appear at this point ‘cos several times I thought there was nothing happening and I was about to click away when it opened (and I’m on a relativelymfast broadband connection!).
For some reason Soapbox has an upper limit of five on the number of tags you can use to tag a video. I’m not sure why this is but it seems a silly restriction. Removing this restriction would seem like an easy way to quickly improve on the service.
As a quick comparison of the services, I shot a quick video on my cameraphone and uploaded it to three video sharing services (Blip.tv, Soapbox and YouTube).
Of the three, Soapbox has the furthest to go in terms of adding Social Networking functionality.
One other issue Microsoft need to address is Licensing – on Blip.tv I can add a Creative Commons License to my videos; YouTube has a share or private option, however with Soapbox, you agree to make your videos completely open. I don’t know that I’d want that. I think the Blip.tv option is best on this score.
Video: View from our balcony
This is a short view of the view from our balcony shot with my camera phone (hence the poor video quality!).
So overall, Soapbox is not bad for a first attempt but there’s plenty more work to do to bring it up to its competitors.
I wrote, shortly after Google bought YouTube, that this purchase was a potential windfall for YouTube copyright claimants however recent happenings are proving me wrong (imagine that!).
Prof Tim Wu (Professor of Law at Columbia) wrote recently in an article in Slate that YouTube (or GooTube as people are now taking to calling it):
is in much better legal shape than anyone seems to want to accept. The site enjoys a strong legal “safe harbor,” a law largely respected by the television and film industries for the choices it gives them.
Prof Wu went on to say:
if Jon Stewart notices an infringing copy of The Daily Show on YouTube, Comedy Central can write a letter to YouTube and demand it be taken down. Then, so long as YouTube acts “expeditiously” and so long as YouTube wasn’t already aware that the material was there, YouTube is in the clear.
This comment was very prescient because Boing Boing has posted news that YouTube has taken down all copies of the Daily Show!
ComedyCentral have their own online video site where people can view the Daily Show but as the blog An Unreasonable Man said of Comedy Central:
the YouTube video player works. Your video player? Not so muchâ€¦ Hereâ€™s why:
1. You have tiny little videos that canâ€™t be resized. Itâ€™s like watching TV from the next room through the keyhole of a closed door.
3. Your popup window canâ€™t be opened in a tab or resized. Give me control of my browser back.
4. Your popup window has an obnoxious background that Iâ€™m afraid is going to give me a seizure.
5. Next to your video, thereâ€™s an ad thatâ€™s bigger than the video. Firefox blocks it, but I canâ€™t decide which is worse: the hole that remains in the background, or the background.
6. When I open a YouTube page, the video starts to play. Isnâ€™t that cool? On your page, I sit and think about how much you suck while the video buffers. The video plays for about 3 seconds until it over-runs and starts buffering again. â€¦and thatâ€™s with DSL. It must be completely useless at slower connection speeds.
7. With YouTube, I can embed the videos in my own website. When I visit a site Iâ€™m more likely to watch a video if its right there and I can just push play. Youâ€™re at least five years away from developing that technology.
8. YouTubeâ€™s search feature also works, conveniently allowing me to find what Iâ€™m looking for. At your site I end up looking through a list of videos.
If ComedyCentral are no longer going to allow YouTube to distribute the Daily Show, they should at least have a credible alternative in place. If they don’t, people will go elsewhere for their entertainment. In the era of the Long Tail, it isn’t as if we are stuck for choice.
Sometimes your users know better than you – sometimes it pays to listen.
In case you haven’t heard (where have you been?) Google announced that the rumours were true after all and that they have agreed to buy YouTube for $1.65bn.
Yep. You read that correctly, $1.65bn.
Unsurprisingly, this is the top story on TechMeme.
It looks like Google believes video on the web has a real future and YouTube’s legal troubles (they are being threatened with litigation for copyright infringement) are a price they are willing to pay.
For the people thinking of suing YouTube this has got to have them down on their knees thanking their deity of choice! Instead of suing YouTube – a company with no significant assets, they now get to sue Google – one of the world’s wealthiest companies!
Simon of Tuppenceworth has a great post where he reviews the terms and conditions of video sharing sites (YouTube, Blip.tv and Google Video). Simon works in McGarr Solicitors a well known law firm in dublin.
I haven’t tried Google Video yet but I have tried both Blip.tv and YouTube and I much prefer Blip.tv. Google would have to be really good to come close to Blip.tv, in terms of functionality.
However, when considering the ToS, Simon comes down in favour of Google Video – this is what he says for each of the sites:
Take your valued video off YouTube. They can do any damn thing they like with it, for money or any other reason, and you canâ€™t do a thing.
Iâ€™d be unworried were it not for two clauses. You do need to grant Blip a right to disseminate the video- otherwise how could anyone see it? But â€œeither electronically or via other mediaâ€?? What non electronic media does the blip.tv intend to use? I only want to agree to electronic dissemination. Also what is the definition of a â€œBlip.tv affiliated siteâ€?? Leaves us with questions.
and finally, Google Video
â€œnon-exclusiveâ€? is good. â€œmodifyâ€? is concerning, but could be a technical term. Letâ€™s let it slide for the moment. â€œReformatâ€? might be read as referring to a video format. Or it might be selling a DVD of Google Greatest Giggles. Otherwise Iâ€™d say that itâ€™s not so bad. Particularly read in conjunction with the later clause. Youâ€™re taking a risk, of course, but it seems to be a lesser one than in the two examples above.
I must take a look at Google Video in light of that. Thanks Simon.
[EDITED] to correct Simon’s current status