Apr 222009
Authors: Glen Pfeiffer, Ryan Gibbons

A week ago today, YouTube’s life was changed drastically, and you may not have even noticed.

It was public knowledge leading up to that day that YouTube was making some big changes regarding content, and many of the big players were talking about it in their vlogs. The question: How big are the changes going to be?

The content changes were known to be as follows: YouTube would be changing their interface to accommodate licensed content from television stations and movie studios, presumably downplaying the user-generated content aspect that has made YouTube what it is today. This, of course, made most of the YouTube community very upset.

John Green, a prominent YouTube vlogger whose multi-weekly videos average about 75,000 views each, referred to last Thursday as “the day they/would take the ‘You’ out of ‘YouTube.'” Would they change the homepage links to movies and TV shows? Would we still have our subscription list? How hard would it be to find users channels?

Not very hard at all, as it turned out.

Thursday came and went, and YouTube looks mostly the same. The big changes interface-wise can be found in the new tab on the homepage labeled “Shows.” It’s very discreet and blends in with everything that has always been there —- a good sign that YouTube knows its users like things the way they currently stand.

Inside the “Shows” tab you will find a page of featured television shows — mostly old stuff because YouTube doesn’t have the rights to much else.

Choices include “MacGyver,” the original “Charlie’s Angels” series, and our personal favorite, the animated “He-Man and the Masters of the Universe.” On the left sits a column where users can switch over to movies, with a selection including “Starman” (who doesn’t like Jeff Bridges?), “Night of the Living Dead” and “Carrie”.

Not to worry, YouTube will no doubt be receiving newer content soon. Think of it as they’re easing us into it.

But what about taking the You out of YouTube? Many thought that YouTube would be thumbing its nose at users whose original content made YouTube famous. That it would shove aside the “Charlie the Unicorns” and fainting goats of the site in favor of network publicity. We all loved a world where a guy with a camera and a Darth Vader suit could make their own original series. Why would YouTube do such a thing?

Maybe it’s because, believe it or not, YouTube is losing money. Despite all the popularity and revenue generating ads, it costs millions of dollars to host that many videos on the Internet. YouTube alone hosts far more content than the entirety of the Internet in the ’90s. It needs a way to make money to survive — it is a business after all. And it was time to move because the competition started to catch up.

What competition? Video on-demand Web sites have been popping up frequently over the past few years as bandwidth and server space has become more readily available. But until March 12, 2008, YouTube has really been the undisputed king of the hill. What happened on that fateful day, you might ask? Well, that was the day Hulu launched./

The newcomer was a joint venture put together by both NBC Universal and Fox, which meant the site had plenty of capital to spend on advertising and content. More importantly, however, they had shows and movies. This put them in a position to satisfy the Internet’s hunger for premium content — something YouTube, until last Thursday, could not do./

With a limited selection created by either Fox or NBC, Hulu does not feature user-generated content. With that said, you can find videos that are a little more up to date than “Alf,” most of which are available in HD. Oh, and the user interface is pretty, too.

Personally, we’ll be happy to hang on to our YouTube of yore, anxiously awaiting the next episode of “sXephil.” The fact is we watch all of our TV online, so we would say we’re definitely happy with the nice job YouTube has done splicing together premium content while keeping the site widely available for the user-generated stuff.

Binary Boys Glen Pfeiffer and Ryan Gibbons can be reached at verve@collegian.com./

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