YouTubers Ponder Google

By Sara Kehaulani Goo
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, October 11, 2006

On YouTube, where members are encouraged to express themselves through amateur video, it took only a few hours before they started chiming in on Google's $1.65 billion acquisition of the popular online video site.

Dozens of YouTubers turned their cameras on themselves to share their opinions on the sale, while thousands responded to a video posted yesterday by YouTube founders Chad Hurley and Steve Chen.

The reaction was mixed and displayed a range of emotions, from outrage and accusations that YouTube had sold out to corporate interests to admiration and optimism that Google will improve it.

From his bedroom in Britain, 15-year-old Clive Newstead appeared with his long brown hair hanging in his face, proclaiming that the deal is bad news for video amateurs like him.

"It just wouldn't be quite right. There are people fearing Web sites like Google have way too much influence over the Internet," Newstead said in his video, posted under the screen name "nuodai." He enjoys watching TV shows and movie clips on YouTube and fears that they will go away, he said. "Its good to watch stuff that's been on TV that you can't find anywhere else."

Joel McDonald, 22, of Virginia Beach disagreed, reasoning that Google is a good company that won't mess too much with YouTube. "Google's great at anything they do," McDonald said into the camera at his home. "Google would do a great job at managing YouTube. It would be wonderful and the features would be better."

How things will change has yet to be seen, though Hurley and Chen -- in a video that was recorded outside what appeared to be a T.G.I. Friday's restaurant -- said they were committed to developing a site that remains fun for its users.

"The most compelling part of this is being able to really concentrate on features and functionality for the community," Chen said.

But, in true YouTube fashion, the two founders -- overnight millionaires from a technology deal reminiscent of the late 1990s -- quickly turned silly as they poked fun at a recently posted video featuring hip-hip mogul Sean "Diddy" Combs inside a Burger King restaurant.

"Two kings have gotten together: The king of search and the king of video. We're going to have it our way, salt and pepper," Hurley says, mocking Combs.

Chen walks away from the camera, doubled over, laughing.

"You can't do that. Cut," Hurley says just before the video ends.

Hurley, 29, and Chen, 26, are likely to make tens of millions of dollars by selling their company, which is just over a year old, to Google in an all-stock deal. Sequoia Capital LLC, the sole venture firm to invest in YouTube, is reported to have made $495 million from its $11.5 million investment in YouTube.

Hurley and Chen will stay with the company, Google said.

How the site will change under Google is unclear. Google executives said Monday that they planned to keep YouTube a separate Web site that would run independently of Google and its own video site, Google Video.

Google and YouTube offered vague descriptions of how they might work together to improve features for users and opportunities for advertisers.

When asked whether YouTube would continue to ban "pre-roll" advertisements that viewers are forced to watch before viewing the video they have selected, Hurley said YouTube was "going to be exploring a lot of options."

That prompted some YouTubers to predict that the site will have a more corporate feel in the coming months. After, the social networking site made popular by teenagers, was sold to Rupert Murdoch's News Corp. last year, some members of that site complained that it was becoming overrun with ads.

A member indentified as "crashomatic" wrote: "i think we are going to have to watch commercials after every 3 video clips or something, but hey its great -- for the guys who started this whole thing."

Another member, with the screen name "redstripedthinker," warned: "do not let youtube get TOO commercialized like myspace. The audience knows when they're being sold to . . ."

In buying YouTube, Google gains a huge social networking community on the Web, something it has been eager to develop without much success. Google's equivalent of, Orkut, is hugely popular in Brazil but not in the United States. Google Video gets about one-fourth the Web traffic as YouTube.

Jennifer Simpson, an analyst with the Yankee Group research firm, said Google should maintain the YouTube community and let its unique culture flourish.

"The younger audience who traditionally have been attracted to social-networking sites will always be fickle and will switch their allegiances to whatever site fits their needs," Simpson said.

A few members made it clear that they would leave the site if there are too many changes. A member who uses the name "peterhk69" wrote: "I see only a few things in the coming months -- more ads, more fees and less fun. Half of us will look for a new place."

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