Having been involved in the YouTube community from near its early beginnings, I have witnessed first-hand the many developments and changes throughout its history. YouTube, as I remember it in 2005 was a place to share videos that people all around the world had created. From amateur vlogs and home video footage, YouTube quickly became a place for original content in the form of short films and much more.
It was through YouTube where I shared my own animation work to give it exposure to people around the world. The idea of engaging an audience on a worldwide scale was exciting for everyone on YouTube. I felt that YouTube was itself a global community using the sites easy commenting system and channels to communicate and collaborate with other content creators.
Google’s acquisition of YouTube in late 2006 was mostly seen as a good move. Google, in the eyes of many was seen as one of the more sensible internet based corporations whose existing technology and expertise could help YouTube grow into a larger content sharing platform. Google introduced the YouTube Partnership Program; an opportunity for a YouTube user who had built up a large and consistent audience base would be able to make money from their videos from displaying advertisements alongside their videos.
Although no-one is really a fan of advertisements, the concept was generally accepted and YouTube began turning amateurs into professionals but whom mostly still retained a very close connection with their audience.
Having found an audience myself, I was accepted into the YouTube Partnership Program in 2008. At the time, the YouTube Partnership Program was well sought after by most YouTube content creators but required the user to regularly upload high-quality deemed content, and to retain a large audience from those videos. At the time of acceptance I was only 1 of about 10 YouTube Partners in my field (and only 1 of 2 from the UK) of content who had been accepted. Being a Partner not only meant the chance to make money but also exclusive channel branding options and the chance to have content featured alongside other worldwide partners.
The YouTube platform undoubtedly encouraged and promoted home grown content, from all genres of video to select sponsored content. The YouTube homepage and its featured section was the ultimate goal as one day featured there would often result in a massive boost in popularity. I was lucky to have been featured on YouTube’s homepage on Christmas Day of all days. I was able to see first-hand the impact of how much this could promote a video and channel.
But as the YouTube user base grew so did the amount of sponsored and promoted content from professional companies often using YouTube to promote their own products. The acceptance for the requirements were relaxed for the YouTube Partnership Program and anyone who could make semi-decent content were given the chance to monetise their videos.
The YouTube Partnership slowly lost its exclusivity. From removing the shout-out box, removing the personal messaging system, hiding channel comments under layers of tabs to removing the ability to have personalised backgrounds and other branding options made it much harder for anyone to stand out from the crowd.
In recent times YouTube seems to be attempting to bring back social features by integrating its channels and commenting system with the Google+ social network platform. It doesn’t seem to be working too well in their favour and there are so many reasons wrong with these recent decisions but I’ll leave that for another time.
Without a doubt, YouTube is still a place for user content, but I feel there’s so much of YouTube’s potential has been put aside.