Even in an age when technology explodes instead of simply growing, the 12-year history of YouTube is quite dazzling. The 2016 statistics alone contradict the unimpressive official description of a “video-sharing website”: 1,325,000,000 regular users; 4,950,000,000 videos viewed daily; 300 hours of content uploaded every minute; broadcast in 54 languages; 3,250,000,000 hours of videos watched per month. . . small wonder that YouTube is now the second most popular Internet search engine after Google, and the third most popular website after Google and Facebook. In fact, YouTube has long outgrown being a repository of videos of cute kittens and has become a modern out-of-the-box encyclopedia that makes Wikipedia look nervously over its shoulder. (All statistics from www.statisticbrain.com/youtube.statstics.)
Google is being as rigorous as possible in its due diligence on the subject of copyright. YouTube has software in place to scan content continually and it is apparently pretty clever at ferreting out a breach – usually before the offended party. In addition, however, there are clear procedures for someone to report what they believe are copyright infringements, and postings are taken down as quickly as possible if staff research the report and it is upheld. The identity of the person who posted the offending content is recorded, and if the offence is repeated twice more, that person is barred from posting altogether. All of this is of course without prejudice against the offended party taking their own legal action. There are those who feel that YouTube, like Facebook, relies too heavily on automated processes to control offensive and illegal content, but both have recently reported the hiring of large numbers of additional (human) staff to help address the problem. It is not ironclad that a person could never wind up downloading something that is illegal but it really does seem that the procedures are the best that one could expect under the circumstances.
Perhaps not surprisingly, music is the most popular subject on YouTube. Your tastes have to be pretty esoteric indeed for you not to be able to find at least one and often many versions of tunes, from symphonies to silly 1940s novelties (Mairzy Doats, anyone?) One feature that we find interesting is the recent trend of uploading entire albums and the 2017 equivalent of mix-tapes of compatible music, so that with a little searching and one click, your computer could be entertaining you for an entire evening, sometimes with original accompanying videos. For those who might find it convenient, it is possible to download and record videos, and it is also quite easy to record the audio only, if you don’t need the video.
Some of the additional nuggets you can find include:
• Live concerts are often available, both music and comedy;
• Lectures and speeches, both contemporary and historical;
• Do-it-yourself guidance for construction, renovation, auto and appliance installation and repair;
• Brief nuggets of the best of last night’s television programs; and
• Entire series of old favourite television series. Settle down for an evening of “L.A. Law” or “You Can’t Do That on Television”; . . . sometimes it seems like quite a challenge to identify something that you CAN’T find on YouTube.
All of the above involves simply going to YouTube.com anonymously and entering your search terms in the box. People who want to take advantage of even more features can sign up for a free YouTube account. Just part of that list would include:
• Uploading your own videos;
• Downloading and saving favourite videos; and
• Creating playlists.
This column comes with a homework assignment, should you choose to accept it. We challenge you to make yourself familiar with YouTube (if you aren’t already) and jot a list of the purposes and ways that you use it. Send that list to us at firstname.lastname@example.org, and we will include the most interesting, innovative and helpful examples in a future column. We won’t use your name unless you specifically mention that it would be okay.
Now start watching!