Surprised! Not really. Last week I wrote a blog, Social Sites a whimper or a Yell!, on the 3 stages that a social site must go through to be successful and not linger or fail. I pegged YouTube as having failed to successfully reach the third stage. This week Hitwise released data confirming my theory. I find no satisfaction in being right on this point. YouTube is a hero in my book. This application revolutionised communication by allowing free and unlimited sharing of videos. The world opened up in a way never before imagined. This was not a "me to" application, but a real revolution. But that said, if it wasn't for the deep pockets of Google it may not be around today. Why?
The 3rd important stage a viable social media/network site must evolve into is "Strong and Stable". This is recognised as the phase where the social site adds value to the end user and through this enjoys a stable user base and is able to generate revenue through channels aligned with the sites business model. There is no question that YouTube is widely used. YouTube videos can be seen everywhere. It is currently estimated that 67% of online videos streamed are through YouTube. But what does this really mean? It all seems OK but is it really?
The difficulty with YouTube is that it lacks functionality that bring people in and holds them. It is my guess that we all view more YouTube videos on Facebook or embedded on other websites than on YouTube itself. There are few, if any, functions on YouTube that make it an enjoyable experience for anyone other than those posting and managing their videos. So how does a site with enormous infrastructure costs that are disproportionate to their member numbers survive. This is the conundrum for YouTube. Whereas, Facebook and MySpace have evolved to make their sites a destination, YouTube seems to being moving further away from this target goal while providing no revenue stream to fill the gap. At this point I could paint a disappointing picture that YouTube will fall back on old school tactics of forced in-video advertising and possibly paid hosting. I hope they arrive at a more innovative and less intrusive solution, but I am not optimistic. In the mean time I assume they will continue to reach ever deeper into Google's pockets.