By Sree Sreenivasan
DNAinfo Contributing Editor
When YouTube was created in February 2005 (here's the first video, "Me at the Zoo," which was uploaded in April that year), not even the founders could have expected it to be the success it's having today (or that Google would buy it in Dec. 2006 for $1.6 billion).
Since then, it's changed the media landscape, and the importance of Web video. The George Polk Awards, one of the most prestigious prizes in news, reminded us of that last week when it awarded an anonymous cell-phone-camera-weilding person for catching Neda Agha-Sultan's final moments after she was shot during Iranian election protests.
"Video gives people a voice," YouTube founder Chad Hurley wrote last week. "From classrooms to war-torn countries, the Queen of England to the King of Pop, the Pope to the President of the United States, and the hillsides of Port au Prince to the streets of Tehran, video has the power to give rise to the most diverse set of faces and voices ever seen or heard in human history."
Here is a look at where YouTube stands in the changing media landscape.
1) YouTube is the world's second-largest search engine. Users are increasingly searching for video when they go online and this will continue.
2) Last May, YouTube announced that 20 hours of video were being uploaded onto the site every minute. That's as if Hollywood were to release more than 100,000 full-length features a week.
3) YouTube wants to compete with Hulu and be taken more seriously for quality content. Last year, it launched its Shows page, with full-length TV shows and movies. But the offerings remain meager compared to Hulu. The YouTube folks are also proud of their full-length movies, but the offerings there are woeful. "Deadly Snail vs Kung Fu Killer," anyone? How about "Extreme Chickfights: Raw & Uncut"? There is, however, a half-way decent Bollywood collection (to get a real taste of Indian cinema's song-and-dance-and-violence genre, be sure to catch the James Bond-inspired "Shaan"). Come on, YouTube/Google: You can do better.
4) YouTube is making itself more "social." It launched the ability to auto-share your YouTube activity to Facebook and Twitter. Just watch those privacy settings.
5) Comments on YouTube are the least useful feature of the site. The anonymity of most YouTube commenters, despite having to register and create accounts, results in tasteless, useless comments a lot of the time. I presume the "real-name culture" that might come from the site becoming more social and/or using more Google accounts to sign-in users is going to ease this problem.
6) YouTube is doing more business deals. It continues to push for deals with partners big and small and holds out the promise of monetizing the videos on its site. The fact is that most content creators will see almost no money from YouTube, the same way that most bloggers will see no money from ads they run. Still, it is good to know that YouTube is trying out lots of business initiatives - including generating $30,000 for the folks who brought us "David After Dentist."
7) YouTube is always innovating. Check out the TestTube section of the site. There's always something interesting there.
That spirt of innovation is going to be one of the reasons that YouTube is going to continue a major force for years to come.
And speaking of technology birthdays, see our take on Facebook's sixth birthday.
Every Monday, DNAinfo contributing editor Sree Sreenivasan shares his observations about the changing media landscape.