Google Videos

By Mark Nuyens
5 min. read📱 Technology

The rise of YouTube as our premier video platform is a story of corporate foresight and strategic business decisions. As I recall, YouTube's popularity surged when videos were still being played through Flash Player, with native videos on the web being a distant dream. While Microsoft was attempting to stake its claim in the video arena with its Silverlight software, promising interactivity and videos, Google was nurturing its own competitor, Google Videos. However, failing to meet its expectations, on October 9th 2006, Google purchased YouTube, effectively merging Google Videos into YouTube's platform.

Google's decision to let YouTube flourish independently turned out to be a clever move. It allowed Google to differentiate their investment, allowing YouTube to grow into its own thing and attract users independently, without any potential disturbances from Google. A similar tactic was actually employed by Meta (formerly Facebook) when it acquired WhatsApp. In fact, I'm guessing most users are still unaware that these independent-seeming platforms are owned by these tech giants. This "corporate duality", as I've referred to this phenomena in another article, allows these companies to essentially grow on their own basis.

In the years that followed, there were in fact multiple video platforms vying for users' attention. Alongside Google Videos and YouTube, there were platforms like DailyMotion and Vimeo. Unfortunately, most of these platforms didn't manage to survive in the face of YouTube's dominance. This is another reminder that for some markets, like video streaming, it definitely helps to be Google. With its vast server resources, Google had the ability to provide an extensive amount of videos for free, a luxury that was simply out of reach for most startups.

Fast forward a decade later, Google's reputation begins to experience a gradual decline in popularity with growing concerns over user privacy. However, despite facing competition from both large and small tech companies alike, Google was able to hold a few aces up its sleeves, one of which is YouTube. While Google's Search was its trump card for a long time, the rise of ChatGPT and Bing made them rethink the power of their search engine. However, unlike summarizing the entire web, replicating a culture like that of YouTube is easier said than done.

What's concerning is the amount of power Google has gained by now. With little to no competition, they can essentially do things they may otherwise not get away with so easily. For example, when you embed a YouTube video on another website, you’re essentially giving Google the ability to gather information about your viewers, unless you opt out of data collection - an option that is turned off by default. Furthermore, consider how this market dominance affects innovation. Can you recall the last time YouTube introduced a truly captivating feature, aside from the well-known shorts?

Looking ahead, it appears YouTube will remain the sole player in the field when it comes to long-form video content. While short-form videos have found their niche in TikTok, the long-form content is still clearly dominated by YouTube. This situation does make me wonder how the platform's perception would change if Google decided to rebrand YouTube back to “Google Videos”. Would their nourished culture of YouTubers and influencer even survive such a change?

Looking back, it seems that Google's takeover of YouTube should have been scrutinized more carefully. Given Google's strong position and resources at the time of the purchase, it was seemingly inevitable that YouTube would emerge as the largest, and practically only, player in the video-streaming industry. Today, content creators dependent on YouTube for their income are inadvertently directing their loyal fans towards engaging with Google, essentially ensuring its continued dominance.

Google's acquisition of YouTube turned out to be a masterstroke. It provides the tech giant with a safety net in case their other ventures, like their latest AI engine, Bard, don't pan out as expected. However, the growing association of Google with gatekeeping, mistrust, and large-scale data collection might prompt YouTube to retain its name and identity, not out of choice, but as a survival strategy in an increasingly wary digital landscape.