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Youtube: Media for the Internet Age

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YouTube: Media for the Internet Age

        YouTube is a video-sharing website that was founded on February 14, 2005 by Chad Hurley, Steve Chen, and Jawed Karim. The trio had set out to create an easier way to share videos over the Internet which had been a difficult task before (Hopkins). Since its inception, the social media platform has been acquired by Google, become the fourth most visited site on the internet, and undergone numerous design changes and feature additions in an attempt to make it more accessible to as many people as possible.

        As in every social network, creators are consumers and consumers are creators. The great thing about creating content for YouTube is that anyone with a camera can record and upload a video to his/her channel, which gives way to the possibility for the creation and promotion of both personal content, such as vlogs, sometimes called video blogs, and good, professional content, such as original short films or web series. Creators on YouTube are able to monetize their efforts directly on the platform. Facebook, Twitter, Vine, and Instagram are also social networks where users can create content, but those content creators are unable to monetize their efforts directly from these platforms. To their credit, YouTube has successfully upended the traditional social contract, allowing us, as both creators and consumers, to generate income from our content.

        First-time visitors to YouTube might feel a little overwhelmed when they arrive at the main webpage. The page shows a larger video window on the left featuring a sponsored video, thumbnails of recommended videos based on what you’ve seen, and lists of featured videos and playlists farther down the page. There's also a search field that visitors can use to look for videos about a particular person or subject. The design of the main page changes once you create an account, but the content shown is basically the same, except it’ll also show some of the videos of people who you “subscribe” to (Strickland).

        When a user creates an account on the site, YouTube assigns them a personal channel. You can visit another member's personal channel by clicking on his or her username. Here, you can view all of the YouTuber's videos as well as all the videos he or she picked as favorites. Personal channels let you explore YouTube as a social network rather than as a simple video database; you can find users who like the same kinds of videos you do and find out what they are watching. You can also send private messages to others or comment on a user’s individual videos, unless the video's creator has turned off that feature.

        When you subscribe to another user, which is completely free, you’ll be able to view new videos from that user on your personal channel. The subscription section displays thumbnails of the most recent videos from the users to whom you've subscribed. As they upload new videos, you are notified whenever someone you are subscribed to uploads a new video…most of the time. It’s been a running complaint from content creators and their subscribers, alike, about how bad the notification system is from YouTube. The website has made improvements over the years, offering email notifications for new videos, but even that is not always accurate.

        The site caters to all three of the cognitive states, as it has a depth of content to sort through, yet a design that is easy enough to use that the service isn’t too difficult to understand. On the visceral level, people go to the front page of YouTube and either click on one of the videos there or search for a specific video that they are looking for, all in the search of entertainment or education. On the behavioral level, there is a bit of time taken to sort through the immense amount of content on the site in order to find just the right video for the user’s needs. And on the reflexive level, there are two main views of creators on the site, one by the audience and another by other media outlets, both old and new.

        As the world's largest video platform, YouTube has made an impact in many fields, with some individual YouTube videos having directly shaped world events. In his TED Talk on crowd-accelerated innovation, TED curator Chris Anderson preliminarily noted that human brains are "uniquely wired" to decode high-bandwidth video, and that unlike written text, face-to-face communication of the type that online videos convey has been "fine-tuned by millions of years of evolution.” Referring to several YouTube contributors, Anderson asserted that "what Gutenberg did for writing, online video can now do for face-to-face communication”


        The social media platform has been a place where people could create content for many different disciplines, such as education, culture, and social issues, among others. Education channels, such as CrashCourse, which began with two subjects but has since grown to fourteen, were given grant money from YouTube to start creating videos and have since branched out into classrooms around the world. Movements like KONY2012, Occupy Wall Street, and the Proposition 8 same sex marriage initiative all had YouTube behind them with an audience that was rallying for the betterment of the world (Is YouTube…). Even the President himself has gotten involved with YouTube, having held two fireside chats over the platform and was recently interviewed by three YouTubers at the White House following his State of the Union address.

        Recently, in the media, YouTube has been given a bad rap. Traditional media outlets, and even some new media companies, have demonstrated their lack of knowledge about the platform and the creators who use it. In an essay published on Medium, YouTube creator Hank Green says that “the news is losing an entire generation” (Green). Along with fellow YouTube creators GloZell Green and Bethany Mota, Hank Green was chosen to interview President Obama following the State of the Union address. The interviews were set up by Google and the White House in an effort to communicate the ideas outlined in the President’s address to a wider audience.



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