YouTube is entertaining but also highly utilitarian
Google created a huge splash late last year when it announced that it was acquiring YouTube for $1.65 billion.
Most of us have been forwarded a clip or two from youtube.com, almost always obviously homemade, and almost always of a lighthearted nature. So that begs the question: What exactly is YouTube good for?
Using YouTube's search feature, you can find a wide variety of homemade clips. Since this is the season for March Madness, the NCAA men's basketball championship tournament, we tried using YouTube's search feature to look for clips featuring the probable national player of the year, Texas' Kevin Durant. This search yielded a mix of homemade clips featuring Durant's feats in both high school and college.
Other YouTube clips are lifted from television shows or movies. As such, the issue of copyright is one of the biggest concerns for youtube users. Certainly, entire columns have already been-- and will continue to be -- devoted to this issue, so we'll leave that one to the lawyers.
But amidst all this entertainment, there are certainly utilitarian purposes for YouTube. Countless clips providing technical support are available. Problems with Vista? There are already a handful of clips providing instruction and troubleshooting, and surely many more to come. Need help configuring specialty software? Check out YouTube.
In fact, many video entrepreneurs are posting their content on YouTube in the hopes of striking it big. Sometimes the entrepreneur is the subject of the clip, other times, the producer/director.
What about running your business? Need to research Sarbanes-Oxley? A number of exciting and gripping clips explaining the intricacies of this legislation are available. Congressional testimony is also posted.
Is your kid writing a paper on Enron or Gulf War I? Tons of video clips are available that, quite frankly, would not be as effective as written word. On top of that, YouTube does not (yet) permit pornography, so it is kid-friendly in that respect. Be careful, however, many clips contain profanity, violence, and other adult-oriented themes. It's kind of like an R-rated movie. It's rumored that YouTube will implement filtering features in the future, but they're not available just yet.
YouTube is seen by many as a precursor to new forms of digital entertainment, copyright issues notwithstanding. Of course, that's the driving reason behind Google's investment. But even if the copyright issues preclude the use of YouTube as a means of entertainment distribution, it may still find a future as another store of data on the information highway.
is president of ISDI Technologies Inc., a Honolulu-based IT consultancy. Call him at 944-8742 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org