Google and YouTube
A common meme among geeks is that Google's purchase of YouTube for $1.6 billion shows that Google has tipped over into being a profligate, dot-com style company with more money than common sense that's making stupid acquisitions. I disagree:
- it's not as if Google wasn't already active in the area; Google Video is living (for the moment) proof otherwise. Google thought the area was interesting well before YouTube was a runaway success.
- given that this was an all-stock deal, it's not as if Google is spending real money. When your stock is riding high is exactly the time for deals like this.
But this is still a lot of money to spend for a competitor in a field where no one is (yet) making any money.
Google's proclaimed goal is to organize the world's information. Not all of that information is in textual forms, and so if Google is serious they need to do something with the non-text information too. Google has already made some moves in this direction, like Google Images.
A fair amount of the information is in video. Understanding video is a hard problem, but in setting up Google Video and now in buying YouTube, Google has arranged a large supply of both video to work on and people to tell them if they're getting useful results.
(The video would probably be hard to get otherwise. Most video content is hard to crawl for various reasons, including its size (which makes people antsy about automated retrieval) and, yes, copyright issues.)
This line of thought leads inevitable to a 'Google Audio'. However, I suspect that it's impossible, since the music industry has pitbull lawyers and a hair trigger. (Wild speculation: MySpace would be a great place to work on the problem, since they have a lot of bands putting up their own music plus a natural target market for an 'if you enjoyed this, you might like ...' service.)