Imagine two libraries competing to house the world’s knowledge. People from across the land contribute their own volumes towards the growth of these institutions, and while there is a rivalry, in truth, everybody wins.
Then one of the libraries acquires the other, and strangely decides to burn their original building to the ground, without moving the books. All those who contributed to this first library have 4 weeks to pull specifically their volumes out and re-shelve them at the alternate location, otherwise they’ll be set ablaze along with the walls that house them.
Sound like a good idea? Right now, we are in the middle of this transitional period, as Google Video’s submissions have been given a deadline in the truest sense of the word, to potentially (but not necessarily) be reincarnated on YouTube, the masses willing. The videos will be unavailable for viewing as of April 29th, available for last-chance download by the original submitter until May 13th.
To be honest, I’m not sure why. Ads? Consolidation for simpler management? I’ll fill more of this in as more explanation is offered.
What’s the Difference?
YouTube and Google Video are not, and never have been, the same. YouTube has a starting viewing area of approximately 450×338, with the option to go full screen. Google Video starts considerably and respectably bigger. YouTube’s video size fits neatly within their fixed-width design, which does not offer room for both a related videos sidebar and videos of a more significant size, unlike Google Video. YouTube is chock full of idiotic and offensive commentary. Google Video is not. And, most significantly, YouTube has a lot more ads, from banners to over-video Google AdSense ads, which, on the smaller screen, take up a lot more real estate.
You may have noticed that all of these differences point to YouTube being worse, and for the most part, it’s true. One difference which is better or worse depending on your preferences concerns the videos themselves. YouTube has its share of intellectually-stimulating content, but such content represents the minority of its offering.
Google Video, partly due to its longstanding allowance of videos much longer than 10 minutes, has become the longstanding preference for documentaries. So, in a sense, the library being burned down is the one with the more serious literature. Whether you care or not depends on your affinity for the documentary. I happen to like documentaries. Grr.
Let the Downloading Begin!
Fortunately, there are numerous tools available allowing regular users to download videos from Google Video and other sites that stream through Flash (including YouTube). So while Google is allowing submitters to take back their content in an official and restricted way, thousands are probably already lifting what they can unofficially – as well they should. There are two main reasons to get into this:
You might not like YouTube
It’s by far the more childish platform, and is filled with junk, mislabeled time-wasting, and advertisements.
The videos might not be available
If the submitter doesn’t take the content back within the timeframe and re-upload, it’s simply gone.
If the submitters fail, will other users succeed? Will we see multiple versions of the same videos appearing on YouTube shortly?
That’s the strangest part about this; the amount of loss of time and knowledge Google seems prepared to casually destroy. As I said, there could be thousands of hours of potentially difficult to acquire documentaries that have a chance of being lost in this shuffle, the loss minimized depending on how on the ball submitters are and to what extent the rule-bending Flash downloaders succeed.
A month’s transitional buffer is better than a week, but still might not be enough to preserve the bulk. Time will tell, but the damage will be difficult to measure.
Then there’s the loss of time. As a result of Google’s acquisition and re-shuffling, the massive submitter base, who took time out of their lives to kindly share knowledge with their peers, adding content and thus value to someone else’s site, are now being asked to log back in, download, and upload again to another Google property (that they probably like less). How many human hours will be lost in this process?
My not-so-secret hope is that a big player with cash to spend sees this as the opportunity that it is, and creates an alternative platform to serve the kind of content that Google Video used to offer. There is an opportunity here for someone to fill the void Google Video will leave behind, and perhaps some justice to be served to Google, who seem to arrogantly assume people will just contribute all over again to another of their properties.
Users should not have to be stuck with a catch-all circus of content, forced into centralization out of what was once a different, preferred space. Hopefully someone with cash to spend and a noble spirit siezes the moment and provides an alternative solution. Any takers?