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August 31, 2006

Will YouTube crumble under its own weight?

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The Wall Street Journal took a deeper look into YouTube yesterday, using information gathered by a Delft University of Technology scraper to introduce us to some of YouTube’s most famous users and unleash some seriously jaw dropping statistics.

Care to meet some of YouTube’s most loyal users?

First, there’s Christy Leigh Stewart. At 21, and with nearly 2,000 videos under her belt, she’s considered the most devoted uploader of them all.

Twenty-three year old Ernie Rogers holds the record for the most number of videos watched. I wonder if he gets a ribbon for that?

And we’re sure you already know Peter, aka geriatric1927. He’s the 79-year-old UK widower who sits in front of his computer recounting war stories. Whether it’s his age, the fashionable headphones he wears or his stories that are responsible, Peter has arguably become YouTube’s most famous user. So far he’s appeared in Amanda’s Unboomed, Reuters, USAToday and even has his own Wikipedia entry. How’s that for the power of videoblogging?

Even more startling than its unique cast of characters are the numbers YouTube is reported to be bringing in. WSJ broke it down for us:

  • Number of videos with “Zidane” in the title: almost 2,000
  • Number of videos uploaded as of Sunday: 6.1 million
  • Number of users under the age of 20: 70 percent
  • Total number of views on YouTube: 1.73 billion
  • Amount of storage space 6.1 million videos take up: 45 terabytes or 5,000 home computer’s worth
  • Amount of time people have spent watching YouTube videos: 9,305 years

And now those numbers are sparking debate. Many fear that YouTube will soon crumble under its own weight. However, I think Christy, Ernie and Peter can all rest easy. YouTube’s not going anywhere.

YouTube knows its financial situation, and they’re successful enough that they have some options. Worst case scenario, I think we’ll see YouTube turn into a subscription-based service or ads integrated into the content. It’s costing them millions of dollars worth of bandwidth just to keep things up and running, they’ll have to do something to make that investment worth it.

Best case scenario? YouTube starts marketing itself as a full-fledged social networking site and knocks MySpace off its pedestal. The foundation is there: They have the site-wide instant messaging and email service, groups for users to join, video channels for them to create and existing partnerships with mainstream media. With a small tweak to their focus, YouTube could easily become top dog.

(And of course, there’s always that possibility that YouTube will formally pair up with one of the major engines and make things really interesting. Personally, I’d rather see them go it alone.)

The success of YouTube is built on the innovative thinking of its developers. Your average 17-year-old with a videophone can shoot a video of his friend falling down the stairs and have it available for download in minutes. There’s a power in that.

Keep an eye on YouTube. If they continue to grow at its current rate, and there’s no reason why they shouldn’t, things will get pretty interesting, pretty quick.

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