Henrys Beach, Santa Barbara ©Gary Hayes 2005 An article in the New York Times that is presumably cited in a million blogs already about Googles video ‘store’. In the item “Trash Mixed With Treasure” , David Pogue goes at great lengths to talk about the chaos that is Google Video vs the relative calm we get in iTunes video store. As in my post from last year “The Conduits, The Scared and the Snobs ” referring from a production perspective to the likely extreme of online video of UGC at one end and Commercial at the other this article also discusses the likely disenfranchised and confused from an audience perspective.

“On iTunes, you always know what the price will be: $2 an episode. Every show is downloadable and transferable to an iPod. And you know the quality you’re going to get: great color and clarity, professional production values, no ads. AT Google’s video emporium, on the other hand, anything goes. Some videos are copy-protected, others not. Some can be downloaded, others viewed only online. The resolution and production quality vary widely. Some have ads. Some offer a three-minute preview, others only 10 seconds. Some videos are free, some cost money.”

This reminds me somewhat of descriptions of the internet generally around 1996-2001 (web 1.0) when corporates and commercials used to snigger at the so called ‘home-sites’ of personal users compared with their marvellously, CMS led, tabulated and meticulously designed (I know I worked for BBC New Media for 8 years around this time!) walled-gardens – the snobbery. Of course easy to use publishing tools came along and then look what has happened in the ‘blog’ world – self-publishing is now drawing audiences away from the web 1.0 business sites and the new era web 2.0 is upon us. Of course there will be some ‘readjustment’ as the great silent majority are now not so silent and Google will be the new market place – on the Silk Road of centuries ago before the concept of shopping streets and malls sprung up in large cities, trinkets, oddities and vast cart loads of produce will change hands as individuals roamed from shanty town to shanty town. Google makes up the Silk Road, iTunes a Minaret for invited guests. Anyway enough dodgy metaphors, which the article hints at btw, then goes on to point out the way anarchy can be tamed

There is, in all of this, the seed of a great idea: a bustling marketplace, a chance for ordinary people with great ideas, luck or timing to make a little money from their video, while Google handles all the technical server gruntwork. Indeed, submitting a movie is very easy: you download a little uploading program (for Mac or Windows), choose the videos to send (there’s no limit on length or size), and specify a price and whether or not you want your video to be copy-protected. Then, providing there’s no nudity or sex, Google’s human and software-based screeners will look over your video and, eventually, post it.

The screeners by all accounts are indexing as well as checking for dubious sequences. This indexing will be the key to the proliferation of Google Video. As a research mechanism or just being able to type in the name of your grandchild and have stills and video segments appear on your list is the killer app. Those ‘produmers’ (producing consumers – new term, you heard it here first!) who personalize their media for Google and add the right metadata will to large groups of niche audiences start to make the professional TV content far less important in the minds of viewers. How many videos about making and flying kites for example will we see on iTunes in the next few years? But a chap in Arizona can do that this weekend with a DV cam and a few helpers and have it available via Google late next week! Anyway we know this, where are we heading beyond the obvious?

Well mixing produmer and professional content in one place is a problem for the moment. iTunes sucessfully walked the fine line between making new bands feel second rate and record companies feel ‘dirtied’ – Google is yet to find that line

Google is surely aware of these limitations and has plans to address them. One aspect of Google Video, however, will not be so easily changed: its copy-protection scheme, a new one that Google wrote itself. You can’t burn the shows to a CD or DVD, and can’t play them back on portable players like iPods. In fact, most of the TV shows don’t play back at all without an active Internet connection, which, for most people, also rules out laptop playback on planes, trains and automobiles. This is sickening news for anyone who thought that two incompatible copy-protection schemes – Apple’s and Microsoft’s – were complex and sticky enough already. And compared with the ABC and NBC shows available on the iTunes store, the value of the CBS shows looks even worse.

Regardless of the current complaints, teething troubles and reservations my bet is on a Google that listens to its users – it is still in beta after all – and within this year the portal will have morphed into something that becomes ‘the’ place to go and get video across the UGC – pro continuum. Combining this with mobile delivery to devices that are not just iPods and if the way to find stuff is as simple as finding text then Google Video will head off into the stratosphere. Finally there needs to be ways to go beyond search and we shall expect in 2006 the first av recommendation agents at the personalized front end of Google – without a doubt.

Posted by Gary Hayes ©2006