YouTube began its service in 2005, as The People’s TV – but by the end of 2006, it had been bought by Google for over a thousand million quid. And since those early days, it has changed beyond recognition…
In the beginning, it mostly featured “jackass” videos – low resolution clips made by toy cameras and video-phones of young idiots jumping off garage rooves into bushes, to see if they could break a bone – which were viewed by those sad enough to watch such things.
But after a while, others began to see the possibilities of the new medium.
“Community” videos began to emerge. These were viewed by those who had made them – and a few of their friends and relatives.
Then new “pop” artists and groups began uploading their stuff – and spammed it for all they were worth.
And “news” clips started to pop up. With the New Technology being ignored by the “legitimate” news media (despite their invitations to submit clips, they almost never SHOWED them) those with footage of local happenings started to upload them to YouTube.
But the results were scattergun. Viewers had to know something had happened before they knew what to search for.
Then YouTube’s most important service started to appear – The Universal Archive.
Back in the Seventies, this historian first had the idea of a computer service that could compile every record ever recorded – from corporate archives and collector’s “needle drops” – for download by everyone.
He figured the clearance issues could be overcome and that by the New Millennium, this should be a reality.
As it turned out, he was not far off. It took a few years longer than he anticipated, but today The iTunes Store offers around thirty million audio and video clips covering everything from what passes as Pop these days – to TV shows.
But iTunes has its limitations. The first is that it does NOT have many of the more obscure records which collectors possess. The second, more important limitation is that many of its classic tracks have been “restored” and “enhanced” – which means their sound is FAR removed from that which the original pressings had.
Case in point: listen to Erroll Garner’s “One World Concert” on CD (even though the original producer was involved in the restoration, it is CRAP) – and then obtain a VINYL copy from Ebay.
Which is where YouTube’s Universal Archive is INVALUABLE – for the most part, it features collectors’ ORIGINAL issues.
It began slowly. At first, collectors merely uploaded a few examples from their collections as invitations for other collectors, in the hope they would file-share with them.
But as time went by, collectors began uploading ALL the gems from their audio and audio-visual collections for purely PHILANTHROPIC purposes. And gradually, the Universal Archive took shape.
However, this move sharply divided the holders of musical and video copyright.
Some saw the uploading of bits of their material as free advertisements for their products. Others even released material from their archives which they had bought in job-lots – but which they had thought there was no call for – and made a fortune from it.
Unfortunately, other corporations just FREAKED.
And so began a series of events which ranged from the scary to the downright comical (like YouTube’s “Copyright School” cartoon).
One was the appearance of “Content ID” – whereby copyright owners upload all of their material into a database which compares it with material being uploaded – and when a match is identified, gives the owner three choices.
They can either block the item Worldwide, before it even appears – or block it in selected countries (the ones they own the rights for) – or allow it to be shown, with ADVERTISEMENTS.
This created a dichotomy on YouTube. The company had “do not upload copyright material” emblazoned all over their upload page – whilst simultaneously labeling that same material on the Video Page with the artist’s NAME, advising the uploaders that everything was fine.
But while this wacky system protected uploaders from problems with some material, it did NOT protect them from everything. Corporations were still free to order items taken down – and when they did, YouTube would give the uploader a “strike” – and if they got three of those, their channel would DISAPPEAR.
It was like Russian Roulette.
Earlier, YouTube had come up with a similar system for items that conflicted with their “community guidelines” – which basically meant porn. If an uploader put up a piece with a flash of boob in it, all it took was for some pencil-necked prat to “flag” it and a moderator would view the item, delete it and issue a Community Guidelines strike.
Of course, to have viewed every item uploaded, YouTube would have needed several thousand moderators, working 24/7. And even when one views a flagged item, they only have seconds to decide what to do – with no chance to evaluate context.
And while YouTube does have an “adults only” facility – they rarely USE it.
But at least Community Guideline strikes were deleted after six months (although if an uploader got two, their access to the site was blocked for two weeks; meaning if they knew they had another “problematic” upload, they could not REACH it to delete it, for those two weeks – YouTube had not thought that one through).
However, no such arrangement existed for copyright strikes. Having received one of those, the uploader was STUCK with it. And if they got two – it was like a Sword Of Damocles, hanging over their site.
This was made worse by the fact that copyright material often changes hands – thus a piece they might have had up for YEARS was STILL at risk of being clobbered.
The system was – and continues to be – a nightmare for uploaders.
And it was – and is – totally UNFAIR for said uploaders. They spend years uploading material for the benefit of mankind – and the financial gain of YouTube – only to risk losing it all, every time some corporate puke decides to have a purge (or gets some bottom-feeder, like Britain’s “Web Sheriff” – a.k.a. Web Shite – to do it for them).
Recently, YouTube have stated that copyright strikes “may” now get deleted after six months, subject to no new strikes being received – but like everything else on YouTube, the system appears to be erratic at best.
Nevertheless, despite this chaos, YouTube’s Universal Archive now has most of the Twentieth Century’s finest music and TV clips on it – for the moment…
Because given the success of YouTube, it did not take long for modern corporations (who had actually recorded their material – as opposed to property companies, who had merely BOUGHT vintage stuff) to start uploading their clips themselves (or if they were not tech-savvy, have it uploaded by someone who was – like Vevo).
Thus today, many of the Pop videos on YouTube are there by arrangement with the owners. YouTube call this their Partnership Programme.
But this is where the story REALLY begins to go sour…
The thing is, YouTube were originally The People’s TV service. But now, they have gotten GREEDY.
A short while ago, they got rid of everyone’s customised home-pages, substituting people’s creativity with what many call the “Hitler-bunker” theme (ignoring The People’s protestations, YouTube appears to have done this to try to appeal to the social network crowd).
But YouTube still allow their “Partners” to customise THEIR home-pages.
And now they have 16:9 Hi-Def, they see video STREAMING as their future. They wannabe CBS. And NBC. Even Fox.
They see the new TVs with their TV/computer technology and want to be a big part of THAT as well.
However, they will have to WAIT. In the early days of the Interweb, data had to travel along phone lines. Thus the International Data Highway was more like a strip of two-lane black-top – a few thousand bytes of information every second.
Then along came Broadband – and the Highway became a dual carriageway – a few MILLION bytes per second.
But even THIS is inadequate for Hi-Def live video streaming and quick downloading of series, movies and suchlike.
Enter GIGAbyte broadband. A veritable SUPER-Highway – like, forty-eight lanes – THOUSANDS of millions of bytes.
But apart from in a few Western cities, it is not HERE yet.
However, YouTube do not seem to REALIZE that – and as result, they have been allowing the Universal Archive to fall into rack and ruin.
Half of their old systems are in a VERY poor state. But despite having MANY more staff than say, Wikipedia, they do not appear to be interested in effecting repairs.
Plus, every day, more and more items are taken down and channels deleted.
The fact is, YouTube has LOST ITS WAY. The original YouTubers REJECT their corporate arse-kissing and only watch The People’s channels. But they are largely impotent. As on Wall Street, the Big Boys ALWAYS get their own way.
And while alternative services like Dailymotion (which sounds like a medicine for constipation) and Metacafe exist, they have similar agendas to YouTube – and both get SIDE-LINED by GOOGLE (can YOU read that name without hearing the sound of marching jack-boots?) who of course, own YouTube…
We have seen all of this before. An organisation starts out with the best of intentions (those things the Road To Hell is paved with) but gets seduced by Big Business – then sells its soul for Big Bucks. YouTube is merely the latest example.
So where does that leave the ORIGINAL YouTube? Well, now being SERIOUSLY low-rent, with its systems falling apart – when they DO, that will probably be IT.
THIS uploader has about 1,650-odd uploads left – with still around 90,000 hits per day – and 35 million hits to date. And no-one knows HOW many of his pieces have been downloaded and shared (with his BLESSING).
But while his hit-total will probably pass fifty million by this year’s end – and perhaps the hundred million mark by the end of 2014 (if the World does NOT come to an end this December 21) – it is UNLIKELY to keep going indefinitely.
And when The People’s Universal Archive DOES finally wither and die, the young will no longer have any clue as to what REAL music is like – and the giant corporations with their plastic shite will have WON.
Thank goodness THIS reporter actually LIVED through those Golden Days…