Fred Stutzman’s blog is quickly becoming a must read.
Here he writes on YouTube from the perspective of YouTube as a social networking service rather than just a video hosting site. As he says,
The social architecture that enabled conversation in YouTube was built in, perhaps subconsciously, from the beginning. The founders built a site so they could share party videos with friends. The founders, while they probably have more friends now, likely had a relatively small social network. It was the millions of users like the founders, using the service in a similar fashion, that drove the value of YouTube. The fact the site also became the perfect home for viral videos and pirated video was completely secondary – they simply had the infrastructure to support the long-tail, hence the capacity to support non-long-tail uses. Other video sites that aren’t targeting the long tail are missing out on the social forces that drove YouTube – while people like viral videos, it is the long-tail of peer-produced content that keeps people coming back. It is the peer-production that enables conversation, and the iterative process that drives value back into the site. Without this value, a video sharing site is just expensive infrastructure built on a house of cards.
He also begins to hint at the other value in YouTube – that by visiting, watching, tagging, sharing and accumulating metadata around videos, users are effectively helping classify and categorise video which is notoriously difficult (like any time based media) to create descriptive metadata for (anyone use SMIL?).