Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Final Essay (draft)

YouTube is a video sharing web-site that has revolutionized the way we share information, share culture, and the way we communicate. Its users can view and upload videos. This allows for people to interact with the site in many ways. Users can just watch videos that are posted by others and not have to contribute anything to the site. The uploading feature on the other hand can allow registered users to add their own video’s to this large stock of already uploaded videos. This allows people to come and go to this online community as they please, whether it is just the occasional viewing of, or uploading of videos, or the hardcore user that does both as much as they can.

YouTube was created in 2005 by three men who where former employees of Pay Pal.(Rose 2008) Their names are Chad Hurley, Steve Chen and Jawed Karim (Hopkins 2008). The men created the website because of the realization that video sharing was fairly difficult in the times before YouTube. It was created for anyone and everyone who had access to a computer and the internet, and that’s exactly who uses it. Previously statistics stated that the majority of the demographic are middle aged. Now recent research is saying that the age group is broadening (Donnell 2008). Of course not everyone has heard of YouTube or is interested in using it, but it is hard to point out a specific group of people who do use it. People from every demographic are involved, from the youngest, to the oldest, upper, middle, and lower class. Even companies and organizations use it.

YouTube was created for the purpose of video sharing, and now it provides many functions. One of the most obvious and popular functions is entertainment. People can get lost for hours viewing other’s videos. One of the features of YouTube is that you can search the site for whatever topic or subject you want. The search will bring up all of the videos that land under the key terms used to search. The feature that can get you stuck watching video after video is that when one is clicked on to view; other related videos will pop up underneath it. So, there is easy access to the videos that the user would find most interesting based on their previous selection. Some of the other functions entail art, advertising, communication, journalism (Professional and non-professional), Blogging, and online journals. Online journal sites like LiveJournal are becoming more and more popular, and YouTube can achieve the same kind of function, but with video. This allows for a more intimate and media rich involvement and it seems that being media rich is one of the most important aspects of this web 2.0 medium. The last function I want to mention is that YouTube can have a huge impact on our history. Many events and of the present and past are posted on this web site. I believe that since these videos are so much more accessible then they recently were it allows for more exposure to these events. These events would include everything from historic boxing matches to Dr. Martin Luther King speeches, and events like the Mumbai terror attacks that just recently happened in India.

YouTube has created a culture which keeps growing more and more every day. It may have started as just a quick way to upload and share videos, and a fun source of entertainment, but now it has a following. Many of the users know what the latest hit video is and even share its content with people who are not even in the YouTube community. People react to other videos by making their own and posting it, they also blog and leave comments about other videos. There are even awards given out every year to congratulate the best videos in several different categories (YouTube 2008). Some people even become somewhat famous from there videos, even appearing on shows like Late Night with Jay Lenno, and signing record deals. This is a pretty powerful tool. There has never been a way like the one YouTube provides that can allow you to make yourself famous. (Rose 2008)

YouTube’s success is based on its ability to grow and adapt with the ever changing internet environment. This is the characteristic that has allowed many things to be successful in changing environments, even humans and animals. The way YouTube does it is through its creators and overseer’s commitment to stay up to date and be flexible. It is also because of the one of the latest feature that allows its own community police itself. When joining the YouTube community and registering to upload videos to it, there is list of terms you must agree with before posting. If any of content that is posted that is unacceptable based on these guidelines, it is the community’s job to flag the video. This allows for the overseers to take action quicker to determine if it does indeed violate the terms. If it does then it is removed (YouTube 2008). Of course this does allow for some offensive content to be posted for short amount of time. Another element that makes YouTube so successful is that it allows you to connect with other web 2.0 technologies and in turn they can link back. It has links to MySpace and Facebook. So not only can people share videos with each other on YouTube, but they can have links to YouTube videos through their other social networking pages. So even people who are not persistent YouTube users can still be exposed to the YouTube world. This YouTube culture is growing right along with the internet, and is proving to be rather dominant.

Based on the popularity and success YouTube it seems safe to assume that there are many benefits that go along with this new technology. What I believe is the most important benefit of YouTube is that it has a powerful ability to bring people from all over the world together and expose each other to foreign cultures. For example, in my recent research I have seen many things that I would have probably not ever had a chance to see in my life. I watched a video called “Bus Uncle”. It shows two oriental men arguing on a bus. This may not seem important at first, and even though it’s just an argument, it is interesting to see how other cultures interact with each other, and what kind of things they value. We can learn a lot from other cultures and YouTube is full of these lessons. It is not just people in the U.S posting these videos; it’s people from all around the world. Another important benefit is that some things you have to see to believe or to understand. People say a picture says a thousand words, so how many does a video? Some things are just hard to explain and even more than that, some people have a hard time understanding things without being able to see it. A simple example of this would be trying to explain to a child how to tie their shoe. It would prove to be much easier to just show them. Another extremely important benefit of YouTube is that it is becoming another way to get the news without the bias of Mainstream media. Before technologies like this one we depended mostly on the gatekeepers on the dominant news channels, where it was on T.V or in Newspapers. Now we are able to see things from around the world from other people’s views, and even things we would have never been able to see in the News. The last and maybe most obvious benefit I want to bring up is the fact that now videos are much easier to share with people. If you live far away from someone you are trying to share a video with them, instead of sending a hard copy to someone, or sending it through an email and hoping they have a video player that will play the same type of video you took, you can now be much more efficient with this process.

Although YouTube has many benefits there are some negative implications. The first one is something that I mentioned earlier, and entails inappropriate content on this site. People complain that because of the way that YouTube polices its site, offensive, graphic, harmful, and sometimes malicious content is able to be posted on the site for usually short amount of time (Lang 2007). The problem people are having is that they don’t care how long it is there for; it’s the fact that it can even have the opportunity to be there at all. Their opinion is that the damage has already been done once it is shown. People’s reputations can be ruined instantly. Also rumors can be spread at alarming rates. Another complaint that I have heard about through my own investigation is that people can post videos of you without you even knowing. Some of the people that I have spoken with recently stated that they have had videos posted of themselves on the internet that portrayed them in an unfavorable light. They also stated they didn’t find out about it for a fairly long amount of time. The next major downfall with YouTube is its problem with copyright infringement. Many people have complained that YouTube allows for people to violate these laws too easily. People post T.V Shows, movie clips, music, and many other copyright protected content. Even though YouTube has taken steps to try to avoid this it still happens. The first thing YouTube tried was to set a ten minute limit to video posts, since many of the ones that where longer contained this type of content. The next step they took was to create a database that contained copyrighted content that could be checked against videos that were being uploaded. In reaction to these complaints YouTube says that their stagey for policing is the best that they can come up with and actually is very effective. Compared to the amount of videos posted on YouTube, the ones that violate terms are miniscule, and are usually taken care of promptly. The last negative implication I want to mention is that, due to not only some of these problems above, but the revealing nature of these videos, YouTube is actually blocked or filtered in some countries. It proves to be a dilemma that something that has such a strong power to bring people together can on the other hand tare them apart.

In conclusion, YouTube has proven its strength and popularity and seems to have a good chance of sticking around for a long time. It has already left its mark in history and will continue to do so as long as we have a need for this type of web 2.0 technology. It is this type of ingenuity that has brought the people closer together and flattened out world. To think, in 2007 YouTube took up as much bandwidth as the entire internet did in 2000, and even though it wasn’t that long ago, it actually seems hard to imagine a time when we didn’t have this luxury. (Carter 2007)

Hopkins, Jim. (2008, December 2) Surprise! There's a third YouTube co-founder. USA Today. Retrieved from

(2008, December 1) YouTube Community Guide lines. Retrieved from

Carter, Lewis. (2009, December 3) Web could collapse as video demand soars. Daily Telegraph
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(2008, December 1) YouTube 2007 Awards. Retrieved from

Rose, Charlie. (2009, December 3). Charlie Rose - Preview of interview with YouTube Co-founders [Video file]. Video posted to

SO’Donnell, Gibson, K. Milliken, M. Singer, J.(2008). Reacting to YouTube Videos: Exploring Differences Among User Groups. NRC-CNRC. Retrieved from

Lang, Pg. Fellow, P. Tampa, P.(2007). Commenting on comments: Investigating responses to antagonism on YouTube. Retrieved from