Monday, August 2, 2010

Put the "You" back in "Youtube" (My letter to Google)

Dear Google,

I am an undying fan. I have been using your services for as long as I can remember using the internet. I used your search engine for years, and eventually started using your mail service, and since then I've expanded to almost every corner of your reach of the internet. Google is still today my heart's only search engine, GMail is almost always an open tab in my browser, Chrome is my go-to browser in many cases, I've been an author on 4 Blogger blogs, Calendar manages all my important dates, Reader handles my daily funnies and blogs, Maps gives me directions, Feedburner feeds my blogs, Desktop is the only search I've found that I like, Picasa Web is where I store all my photos, Talk is how I IM with all my friends, and Sites hosts my software site. Needless to say, I believe I'm a moderate Google-freak.

So I hope you take that as a preface as to what I'm about to say. YouTube needs to change. I'm not talking about the new features that have been added; the high quality was a welcome change. I'm not talking about the copyright issues; you have your legal obligations and we as users must respect them. What I am talking about is the lack of equality.

YouTube's slogan was (and I believe, still is) "broadcast yourself". That's what it used to all be about, people recording videos of themselves and then other people watching them. The first viral videos were of people just doing what they do on their cameras and they just happened to strike people's fancy and spread like wildfire. Like the Numa Numa. (Which I realized was popularized on Newgrounds, but hopefully my point still stands.) I was a part of the Numa Numa forum and I can remember one user who stated that the reason they loved the Numa Numa and viral videos is that there are no big companies that decide the next viral star; it's up to the people. Has that changed, Google? Has it? That's a genuine question. Because it seems to me like it's not so much of a level playing field anymore.

You feature videos now. Not "You", as in "Us", as in "the people", You, Google. You choose what videos appear on every page, even if it has little or even nothing to do with what I am searching or watching. The fact of the matter is that "featuring videos" is tilting the game board, especially if it's videos from partners. Featured videos tries to choose who should get views and leaves all others in the dust. You feature videos that you think might get views, or companies that have big names or big wallets. But where do companies fit into "YouTube"? How is it fair to compare a company with resources and actors and money to an everyday YouTube user? And how is it fair to set them above the rest of us?

I might even go far enough to say that companies really have no place on YouTube as a whole. Sure, I do love seeing the latest funny commercial, but the question is, should companies be given special treatmeant over the everyday user, and if so, why? Because they have more money? Because they will rake in more views? I respect a company's rights to be the only one to host their video, I do. But they should be treated as a user just like everyone else. Either that, or they should be so separated that companies and normal users are separate sections of the site. The point is this: YouTube was not a place for companies. It's for people. YouTube. Not ThemTube.

While I might be tempted to ignore you simply favoring videos or even channels, I then discover that you've gone to the extremes of paying channels that get views, dubbing them your "partners." This isn't even tilting the playing field, this is flipping it upside down. YouTube used to be great because people made videos for the sake of making videos; to make people laugh; to be artsy; to have fun; whatever the reason, it was innocent. Now you are offering them money to create what they used to for fun or pleasure. Where has the innocence gone?

Perhaps worst of all is combining your partners with the featuring. You pay video creators and then passive aggressively force their content onto viewers on every page. You've essentially bribed users to create videos instead of artistic desire and the intent now is no longer to get a ton of subscribers for the sake of popularity, but it's to get noticed enough to get paid by the big G.

If the bribing small innocent channels isn't enough, YouTube now even sides with giants. I was shocked and surprised to one day come to YouTube and find a banner that took my entire screen width and about half the height, advertising the new season of a TV show. This is just completely absurd. I realize that alot of Google's services make money by advertisements and I respect that and I am fine with that. But this is not a little "Sponsored" search result, this is a full blow video ad at the front page of your website.

But it's not just that, is it? Beyond the giant ad on the home page and featured videos on the sidebar, you've got ads in the sidebar as well. And ads above the channel titles. And ads during the video. And video ads before the video. Honestly, Google, you make a buttload of money just from your search engine, do you really need to overload the ads on YouTube? And from your numerous partnerships with other companies on Youtube, do I really need to see 10 ads on the way to one video and then have ads inside that video as I try to watch it?

That's all I have to say. In my opinion, YouTube should not be a business. It has been -and should revert back to being- a collection of people. Google, you should be there not dictating what we should be doing and watching, but keeping order (removing pornography and other explicitly inappropriate content) and adding new features. That's all I as a user ask of you. Viral videos are one of the very few things that can remain pure and untainted by corporate greed and of all the companies in the world, I would hate to see Google be the one to ruin it.

I am only one user, only one man. I don't pretend to know the inner workings of a site or company as complicated as YouTube. I only speak as a die-hard Google fan who sees a great injustice happening. As for this letter, I have no clue as to where it will find its way. It may be read by the very heads of Google and YouTube, or it may simple be skimmed and responded with a cookie cutter apology, or it may not even be read at all. I only wish to exercise my freedom to speak out, the same freedom that is being tampered with on YouTube. I honestly don't even go to YouTube often anymore because of the corruption I see happening. I may be mistaken or even downright wrong in some points or examples in this note, but I believe my point is still strong.

If I can leave you with one more thought, it would be this: Above all else, what does the user want? If you need a hint answer that question, here's an answer from this user: Not This.

A faithful follower and Google patron,
-Bry (AKA Jon)

1 comment:

  1. I can't find a straight way to e-mail it to Google, so I guess I'm snail mailing it as soon as I can. I'll post results, if I ever get any word back.