Nine suggestions for a better YouTube
With Viacom, NBC and now the Electronic Frontier Foundation pressuring Google to make changes to YouTube, the G Poppa is shifting resources to help monetize everyone's favorite vid-sharing site.
About time. YouTube might be the 800-pound gorilla in the vid-sharing space, but it faces unwithering competition from the likes of Joost (about to partner with Viacom), MySpace (which is filtering videos for copyright), and a host of smaller sites that offer better video quality. YouTube reached critical mass by being quickest to market, but in order to keep their position the site needs to improve.
Below, nine suggestions for improving YouTube.
- Hire a video curator and build out some editorial functions
Despite the fact that both Google and YouTube are technology companies and have eschewed editorial functions, YouTube's position as arbiter of the video zeitgeist puts it in a great position to editorialize. The YouTube blog is only a vestigial example of what could be, whereas the Revver, Brightcove and Super Deluxe blogs are great reads.
- Allow the most popular users to host video curator blogs
Another incentive to stay with YouTube. And while it would take some more manpower to supervise, say, ten blogs, YouTube would benefit from the increased participation and traffic.
- Fix search
YouTube's search quality is nowhere near as good as Google's. In fact, it's easier to find a video through a regular Google search, not to mention through Google Video. The larger problem, of course, is that Google itself isn't very good at anything but text searches, due to bad metadata. There are plenty of startups -- and estabilshed companies like AOL -- that offer better search experiences.
- Build real-time interactive experiences
YouTube is a delayed zeitgeist. Fix that. I should be able to go to YouTube during any mass media event -- the Super Bowl, the Oscars -- and chat with other users, share videos, annotate vids, etc. YouTube's Streams app, currently in pre-beta at YouTube's Test Tube site, is a good start.
- Redesign the video player
YouTube's player works brilliantly, but I think it could be better. I'm a fan of Metacafe's player layout, where the play button is much bigger than secondary buttons. (Although I don't like how Metacafe has both a pause and stop button -- redundant.) YouTube could also offer more functions within the player, such as embed and emailing code (like with Brightcove, SuperDeluxe, etc).
- Use the screen real estate more efficiently
Google is good at minimalism, but when it comes to YouTube (not to mention Google Video), the clean interfaces lose out to cluttered data. YouTube can take a tip from Vimeo's page layout, which pushes the less important info and buttons below the fold.
YouTube could also make better use of the video screen. Here they can take a tip from SuperDeluxe which, when a video is paused, flashes information about the video on the screen. While that feature wouldn't be helpful on the site itself, it would be very useful on embedded clips in blogs where the viewer has less context.
- Give us more data about viewing habits
YouTube has been great about providigin video upload tool and tips for making your video work better. But how about some metrics on what we watch, when we watch it and what else may be relevant to our tastes.
- Offer better video quality
YouTube's current FLA compression scheme is a bandwidth compromise, and for good reason. It already costs YouTube millions of dollars per month to serve its videos. But as newer video services come online, such as Joost, YouTube is going to find itself pressured to offer higher-quality vids. And while most users won't leave due to YouTube's critical mass, competing services will eat away at the audience by offering better experiences.
"You can try to cut costs by allowing only crappy little images. You can limit the run times or make money selling hardware," said Dirk-Willem van Gulik, Joost's chief technical architect in an interview with Wired. "But eventually the bandwidth bills will eat you alive. YouTube, iTunes, and the rest of them haven't got a chance. We just hope they take their time realizing it."
- Fix atrocious adjacencies
This is a tough one, but integral to YouTube's continued success. Google needs to figure out how to stop inappropriate videos from appearing next to ads, and vice versa. This problem was a concern for Viacom during their protracted negotiations with YouTube.