YouTube is a video sharing website where users can upload, view and share video clips. YouTube was created in February 2005 by three former PayPal employees. The San Bruno-based service uses Adobe Flash Video technology to display a wide variety of user-generated video content, including movie clips, TV clips and music videos, as well as amateur content such as videoblogging and short original videos. In October 2006, Google Inc. announced that it had reached a deal to acquire the company for US$1.65 billion in Google stock. The deal closed on November 13, 2006.
Unregistered users can watch most videos on the site, while registered users are permitted to upload an unlimited number of videos. Some videos are available only to users of age 18 or older (e.g. videos containing potentially offensive content). The uploading of videos containing pornography, nudity, defamation, harassment, commercial advertisements and material encouraging criminal conduct is prohibited. Related videos, determined by title and tags, appear onscreen to the right of a given video. In YouTube's second year, functions were added to enhance user ability to post video 'responses' and subscribe to content feeds.
Few statistics are publicly available regarding the number of videos on YouTube. However, in July 2006, the company revealed that more than 100 million videos were being watched every day, and 2.5 billion videos were watched in June 2006. 50,000 videos were being added per day in May 2006, and this increased to 65,000 by July. In January 2008 alone, nearly 79 million users had made over 3 billion video views.
In August 2006, The Wall Street Journal published an article revealing that YouTube was hosting about 6.1 million videos (requiring about 45 terabytes of storage space), and had about 500,000 user accounts. As of April 9, 2008, a YouTube search returns about 83.4 million videos and 3.75 million user channels. It is estimated that in 2007, YouTube consumed as much bandwidth as the entire Internet in 2000, and that around 13 hours of video are uploaded every minute. In March 2008, its bandwidth costs were estimated at approximately $1 million a day.
As of Q1 2008, YouTube was not profitable, with its revenues in 2007 being noted as "not material" by Google in a regulatory filing. Exact revenue or profit numbers are not published, but a June 2008 Forbes magazine article projected the 2008 revenue at $200 million, noting progress in ad sales. At that time, the price for an ad on the YouTube home page was $175,000 per day (plus a $50,000 commitment to buy Google/YouTube ads elsewhere), and a branded channel (distinguished by a customized background) cost advertisers $200,000.
Before the launch of YouTube in 2005, there were few simple methods available for ordinary computer users who wanted to post videos online. With its easy to use interface, YouTube made it possible for anyone who could use a computer to post a video that millions of people could watch within a few minutes. The wide range of topics covered by YouTube has turned video sharing into one of the most important parts of Internet culture.
An early example of the social impact of YouTube was the success of the Bus Uncle video in 2006. It shows an animated conversation between a youth and an older man on a bus in Hong Kong, and was discussed widely in the mainstream media. Another YouTube video to receive extensive coverage is guitar, which features a performance of Pachelbel's Canon on an electric guitar. The name of the performer is not given in the video, and after it received millions of views the New York Times revealed the identity of the guitarist as Jeong-Hyun Lim, a 23-year-old from South Korea who had recorded the track in his bedroom.
YouTube has been criticized frequently for failing to ensure that its online content adheres to the law of copyright. At the time of uploading a video, YouTube users are shown a screen with the following message:
Do not upload any TV shows, music videos, music concerts or commercials without permission unless they consist entirely of content you created yourself. The Copyright Tips page and the Community Guidelines can help you determine whether your video infringes someone else's copyright.Despite this advice, there are still many unauthorized clips from television shows, films and music videos on YouTube. YouTube does not view videos before they are posted online, and it is left to copyright holders to issue a takedown notice under the terms of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. Organizations including Viacom and the English Premier League have issued lawsuits against YouTube, claiming that it has done too little to prevent the uploading of copyrighted material. Viacom, demanding $1 billion in damages, said that it had found more than 150,000 unauthorized clips of its material on YouTube that had been viewed "an astounding 1.5 billion times". YouTube responded by stating that it "goes far beyond its legal obligations in assisting content owners to protect their works". Since Viacom issued its lawsuit, YouTube has introduced a system that checks uploaded videos against a database of known copyrighted content as a means of reducing violations.
In July 2008, Viacom won a court ruling requiring YouTube to hand over data detailing the viewing habits of every user who has watched videos on the site. The move led to concerns that the viewing habits of individual users could be identified through a combination of their IP addresses and login names. The decision was criticized by the Electronic Frontier Foundation, which called the court ruling "a set-back to privacy rights". U.S. District Court Judge Louis Stanton dismissed the privacy concerns as "speculative", and ordered YouTube to hand over documents totalling around 12 terabytes of data. Judge Stanton rejected Viacom's request for YouTube to hand over the source code of its search engine system, saying that there was no evidence that YouTube treated videos infringing copyright differently.
In August 2008, a U.S. court ruled that copyright holders cannot order the removal of an online file without first determining whether the posting reflected "fair use" of the material. The case involved Stephanie Lenz from Gallitzin, Pennsylvania, who had made a home video of her 13-month-old son dancing to Prince's song "Let's Go Crazy" and posted the 29-second video on YouTube.
YouTube has also faced criticism over the offensive content in some of its videos. Although YouTube's terms of service forbid the uploading of material likely to be considered inappropriate or defamatory, the inability to check all videos before they go online means that occasional lapses are inevitable. Controversial areas for videos have included Holocaust denial and the Hillsborough Disaster, in which 96 football fans from Liverpool were crushed to death in 1989.
YouTube relies on its users to flag the content of videos as inappropriate, and a member of staff will view a flagged video to determine whether it violates the site's terms of service. In July 2008 the Culture and Media Committee of the House of Commons of the United Kingdom stated that it was "unimpressed" with YouTube's system for policing its videos, and argued that "Proactive review of content should be standard practice for sites hosting user generated content." YouTube responded by stating: "We have strict rules on what's allowed, and a system that enables anyone who sees inappropriate content to report it to our 24/7 review team and have it dealt with promptly. We educate our community on the rules and include a direct link from every YouTube page to make this process as easy as possible for our users. Given the volume of content uploaded on our site, we think this is by far the most effective way to make sure that the tiny minority of videos that break the rules come down quickly."
On February 23, 2008, Pakistan blocked YouTube due to "offensive material" towards the Islamic faith, including the display of pictures of the prophet Muhammad. This action by the Pakistani authorities led to a near global blackout of the YouTube site for at least two hours. Thousands of Pakistanis undermined the 3-day block using VPN software called Hotspot Shield. The YouTube ban was lifted on February 26, 2008 after the "offensive material" were removed from the site.
YouTube has been subject to threats of censorship by various countries because of the content it hosts. It was blocked from Mainland China from the October 18, due to the censorship of the Taiwanese flag. URLs to YouTube were redirected to Mainland China's own search engine, Baidu. It was subsequently unblocked on October 31.
Schools in certain countries have begun to block access to YouTube due to students uploading videos of bullying behavior, school fights, racist behavior, and other inappropriate content as well as the increased bandwidth usage.
Videos uploaded to YouTube are limited to ten minutes in length, and a file size of 1GB. One video at a time can be uploaded through the standard interface, and multiple videos can be uploaded with a Windows based plugin. YouTube converts videos into the Flash Video format after uploading. YouTube also converts content to other formats so that it can be viewed outside of the website (see below).
A standard quality YouTube video has a picture 320 pixels wide by 240 pixels high and uses the Sorenson Spark H.263 video codec. The bit rate of the video signal is around 314 kbit/s with a frame rate dependent on the uploaded video.
In March 2008, YouTube launched a feature which allowed some of its videos to be viewed in 'High Quality' format. This format offers the possibility of better video definition (480x360 pixels instead of the standard 320x240 pixels) for any video uploaded after this date. YouTube decides which videos are capable of this improved quality based on the standard of the original upload. Users can choose "always show me higher quality when available" on their video quality settings page in their account pages to switch automatically to the better quality.
YouTube's high quality videos are available in two versions, both of which have a maximum picture size of 480 x 360 pixels. By adding &fmt=6 to the web address of a video, it is played using the H.263 codec with mono sound, and by adding &fmt=18, it is played using the H.264/MPEG-4 AVC codec with stereo AAC sound.
When asked why YouTube did not choose HD format, the site answered: "Our general philosophy is to make sure that as many people as possible can access YouTube and that videos start quickly and play smoothly. That's one reason why you don't see us racing to call this "Super Duper YouTube HD," because most people don't want to wait a long time for videos to play.
YouTube videos are designed to be viewed while connected to the Internet, and no official feature allows for them to be downloaded and viewed offline. However, a number of third-party web sites, applications, including Free Download Manager and browser extensions, such as Firefox extensions, exist for this purpose. Alternatively, when using Internet Explorer, .flv files can be copied from the 'Temporary Internet Files' folder in Windows, or the /tmp directory in GNU systems, to a permanent folder. The .flv files can then be viewed and edited directly or converted to other formats using various applications such as VLC media player.
Videos on YouTube for the iPhone are encoded in Apple's preferred H.264 format. All videos are viewed in the horizontal orientation of the phone. As YouTube videos have 4:3 aspect ratio and the iPhone is 3:2, videos must be viewed with black bars on the side (pillarboxed) or may be zoomed to trim some of the top and bottom to fill the screen.
Not all videos were available on iPhone initially because not every video was reencoded to H.264. There are two versions of each video on YouTube, one is higher bandwidth for Wi-Fi use, and one is lower resolution for EDGE or 3G use.
Unlike the Apple TV version, users cannot log in to their own YouTube accounts, but can create a separate favorites list just for the iPhone.
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On October 17, 2007 it was announced that a Hong Kong version had been launched. YouTube's Steve Chen said its next target will be Taiwan.
On October 22, 2007 YouTube New Zealand had its launch party, stating that its aim was to help create YouTube celebrities within New Zealand. This was quickly evident with the rise of such New Zealand YouTube shows as Three Best Friends That Live Together and LiveFromJoes.
Plans for YouTube to create a local version in Turkey have run into problems, since the Turkish authorities asked YouTube to set up an office in Turkey, which would be subject to Turkish law. YouTube says that it has no intention of doing this, and that its videos are not subject to Turkish law. Turkish authorities have expressed concerns that YouTube has been used to post videos insulting to Mustafa Kemal Atatürk and other material offensive to Muslims.
The YouTube video of the Avril Lavigne song "Girlfriend" has also been accused of having an exaggerated number of views due to the use of a link with an auto-refresh mechanism posted by AvrilBandAids, a fansite devoted to Avril Lavigne. Clicking on the link will automatically reload the YouTube video of Girlfriend every fifteen seconds. Fans of Avril Lavigne are encouraged to: "Keep this page open while you browse the internet, study for exams, or even sleep. For extra viewing power, open up two or more browser windows at this page!" The video of Girlfriend overtook Evolution of Dance by Judson Laipply as the all-time most viewed video on YouTube in July 2008. As of October 2008, Girlfriend has around 104 million views, whilst Evolution of Dance has around 100 million.
In the run up to the 2008 Presidential elections, CNN aired a debate in which candidates fielded questions selected from a pool submitted by users of YouTube. Because of the use of technology to aggregate questions from a wide range of constituents, the forum has been referred to as the "most democratic Presidential Debate ever".
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