Thursday, August 17, 2006

YouTube outage

Web video sensation, which serves up more than 100 million videos online a day, suffered a six-hour breakdown on Tuesday -- its first-ever unplanned outage, a company spokeswoman confirmed today. She also stated that the problem was related to a database issue. The problem occurred on the same day as a release from internet audience measurement firm comScore Networks on Tuesday which showed that YouTube surged into the top 40 ranking U.S. Web sites for July, with 16 million visitors, up 20 percent in one month.

YouTube was founded in February 2005 by Chad Hurley, Steve Chen, and Jawed Karim. It is is a social web site that allows users to upload, view, and share video clips. The company employs 50 people in San Mateo (near San Franciso) California. YouTube uses Adobe Flash to serve its content, which includes clips from films and television programs, music videos, and homemade videos. Video feeds of YouTube videos can also be easily embedded on blogs and other websites. YouTube prohibits the posting of copyrighted video by anyone but the copyright holder; however, restriction of copyrighted material has proven difficult. The three founders of YouTube were all early employees of PayPal. The site's popularity surged in December 2005 when it hosted the Lazy Sunday clip from the NBC’s Saturday Night Live broadcast. Lazy Sunday became hugely popular among Internet communities for its memorable one-liners in a hip-hop parody based on the Chronicles of Narnia. In February this year, the NBC asked YouTube to remove Lazy Sunday and other copyrighted video clips. However, by June 2006, NBC had radically reconsidered its approach to YouTube; now the two companies have announced a strategic partnership. Under the terms of the partnership, NBC will create an official NBC Channel on YouTube to showcase its preview clips for The Office. YouTube will also promote NBC's videos throughout its site.

Copyright remains a major problem for YouTube. Their policy does not allow content to be uploaded by anyone other than the copyright holder. They remove videos that infringe on copyrights, but a large amount of copyrighted material is uploaded nonetheless. These are typically only discovered when they are reported by the YouTube community, or when the copyright holder reports them. Others have questioned whether they have a viable business model. The site was founded on $11.5 million in venture capital but didn't gain any revenue until March, when they cautiously began selling ads. The site's bandwidth costs, which increase every time a visitor clicks on a video, may be approaching $1 million a month--much of which goes to provider Limelight Networks.

The popularity of YouTube has inspired other websites into creating similar services. The craze over sharing homemade videos on the Internet is beginning to draw some big-time Hollywood players. On Monday, Warner Bros. announced that Internet video site Guba has started selling downloads of the studio's movies and TV shows. Guba is the first among the video-sharing sites to offer full-length movies. They also announced last month it had chosen file-sharing technology from BitTorrent to distribute films. BitTorrent is designed to distribute large amounts of data widely without incurring the corresponding consumption in costly server and bandwidth resources. Internet optimists predict that online video, long-rumoured to be the next big thing, is finally taking off. Some estimates that video generated $230 million in revenue in 2005 but will jump to $1.7 billion by 2010. In the meantime YouTube needs to grow with its bandwidth and ensure that the bad publicity of the overnight outage is not repeated in a hurry.

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