This is a new take on YouTube: or rather a new look opportunity for commentators on the internet and marketing to look back at the Mp4 Mpeg explosion on the internet.
So what is the core offering of howcast..com to the consumer?
Basically web film makers (who are they?) put up MP4s video clips of "How To" do erm, "stuff" as the Yanks would say. So far, recipies and conversely, diets have been on the play list ticker-tape at the top of the page. ( Sorry, a side scrolling preview panel!) . Different to Youtube? yep, it is only for how to do stuff videos, and the etiquette for the format of content is to do things stepwise, both in the mpeg. Nothing really new ?
Perspective from The Ancient Archives of the Web
When we first heard about Mp4 a decade ago, what was exciting to me was the embedded database information, which meant that videos could be searched by keyword, and other data. This meant you could search a database of films or perhaps fast forward to the part you wanted, maybe the "money shot" eh?
A decade ago all the elements were well and truly in place for YouTube and there were various prototype social networking sites, recognisable as the blogs and Facebook of today. You could say the internet by-in-large is a social network. It would be interesting to see how much www traffic is free-time related: this would need a measure of Mb, page hits and interactions.
Why was there then such a lag until Facebook and YouTube came to the market?
Well they weren't first on the market by any means. More the market coincided with the two entities. People were bored with spam from googling and the sporadic special interest sites, or pay-for-connection social networks like "friends re-united". People wanted something trustworthy, simple, connected to both their friends and special interests and there with scalable. Most of all they wanted it to be free! When I say free, not only void of fees, but with advertising and spam at a low leve, and relevant to their interests.
In other words, people were looking for brands to match their percieved need for a social network, and a place with enough searchabel video content that they could rely on finding something interesting for their gnat like attention spans ( generation X and i- are not alone in this though- the old greys also have a pretty short patience for something playing on a 15" screen with bad sound and bumpy streaming!)
Now they have the two biggies in terms of bandwidth, consumer involvement and rich content.
Why Did FB and YT become so Big so Quick?
FB and YT were in the right place at the right time, and could grow by their very nature of connectivity, snowballing out as people first e-mailed links and invitations to each other and later tweeted, sms-ed or sent direct invites from FB in particular.
Also of course the two sites had the branding and the runway was clear for easy hits on Google and Yahoo ( hey where is Alta Vista these days? My favourite 1995-1998!)
Also an important perspective was that FB and YT came with their own ready baked early adopters and lead influencers: given FB started in Harvard, there was one social echelon which were both the early adpoters on insett, and also lead influencers. As "the face book" was released it spread through business student networks and into the parents of the Harvard crowd, the siblings, the non Ivy league pals and so on. Wider than the initial, and it must be said, established small social networks which were now connected, just about every company in the world had a little group of early adopters: IT and Web people. Then of course the media "luvvies" got into it and celebrities wanted to start getting scores on the doors. Big hit clips on YT and "n>400" friends on FB.
Now the only thing the two needed was enough banne-ad'-click -through revenue to support the server banks and international load balancing across their incoming land lines.
Why are there not More FBs and YTs?
Well that is answered in a self fulfilling spiral from the last point on economics. When consumer sites go big on the internet, they are massive. The nuclear chain reaction is fuelled by the social connectivity and user definable choice of content and sub channels ( groups, brands, likes, playlists and so on, the sub channels or internal clusters). The obvious snowballing in herent in FB meant that the chain-reaction was optimised once, as in the atom bomb, the material reached a critical mass. In fact, once started I think it would have been impossible to stop FB because if anyone had t4ied in say 2008, then someone else would have bought them out. It was just too good a concept and channel to stop. Being able to see friends-of-friends and either complete your current social circle on the net, grow it outwards or locate old friends, aquaintances or which ever celebrity you want to try ensured explosive growth once x% of internet users 14 to 40 years old were on. It would be interesting to know what x was! How much ure-cranium it too
The second of the two factors makes the brands "super sticky" for us: we find that we not only have immediate content we like or social contacts we know, but we can control what we see and explore areas we are interested in. It is not the channel which controls our viewingl. The channels are suprisingly passive, and well, that should not be so suprising.
Other sites like the temporary shooting star, "friends re-united", had annoying features and some lead to outright spamming as they sold out their members e-mail addresses and on site experience to the highest space bidder: either on the point of , or in fact the very cause of their implosion. Like a newspaper, we flick through things and choose what we browse for longer time, we do not appreciate restrictions on access or forced-view advertising content.
All the ingredients for FB were there from the very birth of the www, or even in the newsgroups of the older IP world on the internet. Groups, as discussed in an earlier blogs, by in large were absorbed into Google and Yahoo and became very stale: the problem was they remained special interest and not a portal to a wider yet also personal connectivity.
Portals and Channels
Twelve years ago in 1998, channels and portals were the next big thing on the internet, which did not get big , yet. Web rings were just dying out ( a little button which lead you to a "Jump station" indexing the sites on the ring, or to the next site on the chain, or to a random site within the ring) . Now everythign has come full circle: we go in social and interest rings and web sites want to connect us togetehr with a button to FB. Previously we sent links by e.mail and ICQd , now we micro blog in tweets and FB posts. Previously we toroturously sent round mpegs in e-posts, now we post links to YT on FB.
A decade ago "portals" started to go wrong because they were structure heavy and networking poor. Indexing was usually poor or actually not useable, even with good Atomz or google internal searches. The portals were push media devised by media owners from an earlier education and IT people from the six-levels-of-structural layers. They were push and not consumer-pull. The corporate, academic and quango portals in particular, grew navel-gazing side alleys and meaningless "intra.extranets" .
Channels became buttons which we soon grew bored of, because they were, ah-hem corporate portals. Stodgey and impersonal.
Everything was there for FB and YT and Twitter, but the WILL of those with cash to invest was not in tune with our WILL on the internet: a free and ever expanding source of knowledge, entertainment and social contact driven by our own curiousity and human wishes.