If you are a Google Voice user and you’ve tried to explain the service to someone else, it probably didn’t go well. The other party likely came away as flummoxed as ever, and you made a fool of yourself with all that wild gesticulating. Well, that’s what happened to us anyway. Don’t worry though; from now on you can simply direct friends and family to Google’s new series of Youtube videos detailing the “awesomeness” of Google Voice.
The first video is a simple overview called “What is Google Voice?” It does an admirable job of getting to the meat of the service. It doesn’t go into detail about how to use any of the features, but it lets the uninitiated know what they’re going to get when they sign up. It goes over ringing multiple phones, call screening, blocking callers, greetings, and voicemail transcription.
The Google Voice channel also has additional videos about each feature. There are 11 videos in all right now. So even if you’re a veteran Voice user, there might be something to learn from watching them. You can find all the videos right here. Do you have a Google Voice account? How do you use it?
You never know what will be returned in a YouTube search. And maybe you don’t what to know. To help you control better the content you’re exposed to on YouTube, Google is introducing a Safety Mode that will help you screen out potentially objectionable content.
Safety Mode is an opt-in feature. The option is provided at the bottom of a YouTube page, and opting in is temporary, unless you’re signed into your account. Searches that stray outside of Safety Mode return nothing, but a notice will be provided that explains Safety Mode blocked the searched for content. Likewise, if results are filtered a Safety Mode warning will be provided. When Safety Mode is on comments will, by default, be hidden. They can be displayed, but objectionable words will be replaced with asterisks.
Shortcomings to Safety Mode are obvious. No filtering system is foolproof--some ‘bad’ stuff is bound to sneak through. Google readily recognizes this, and provides a suitable warning. And, because the keywords are set at the system-level, there’s a bit of Big Brother at play here. However, this latter concern is mitigated, to a degree, by Safety Mode being opt-in. If you don’t want it, don’t use it. (Still, it would be nice to individually determine what is, and what is not, objectionable.)
Safety Mode is being rolled out over the next day or so. When it’s available you’ll find it at the bottom of any YouTube page.
I'm not sure which of these is a more compelling criticism of the Apple iPad: "They named it what?" or "Where's the Flash?"
It's no secret that Apple harbors no love for Adobe's Flash architecture. John Gruber over at Daring Fireball recently wrote up a wonderful treatise as to why this is the case. If you have a spare hour or so, I recommend giving it a look-see. I'll spoil the ending for the sake of continuing on with this column: Flash is a proprietary architecture that Apple has no control over. Thus, when Flash-based elements wreak havoc on the stability of Apple platforms, Apple can't do much to fix the issue--nor can the company convert the 32-bit Flash binary over to Apple's goal of a system-wide, 64-bit experience.
The enemy of Apple's proprietary enemy might be the company's friend, but it's no friend to the Internet.
If all the talk of HTML 5 has piqued your curiosity, then you may want to give YouTube's new HTML 5 experiment a try. The world's most popular video streaming portal is now offering a HTML5-based alternative to the Adobe Flash player. But the YouTube HTML 5 video player is only compatible with three browsers: Chrome, Safari, and Internet Explorer with ChromeFrame. While other browsers may support HTML 5, only the two mentioned above support the H.264 video codec at this moment.
Despite how the press portrays Hollywood as all glitz and glamour, there are a lot of hard working have-nots toiling away in the film industry. These have-nots don’t get the notoriety of their more famous brethren, which makes them, all-in-all, a desperate bunch. This makes YouTube’s recent venture up to the Sundance Film Festival a pretty smart move. If you want to get into the film rental business, and the big names aren’t biting, then start trolling for the have-nots. And where better to find them than at Sundance?
Let’s take YouTube’s action as both cynical and strategic, and put it aside. Because, if the have-nots bite, then one of the ultimate beneficiaries of this plan will be us. Each year independent filmmakers show off their wares at Sundance, and a small handful wind up being well worth watching. Problem is, the major studios aren’t so keen on cutting distribution deals, which prevents us from seeing them. YouTube is offering a new approach that eliminates the middleman, gives filmmakers a way of promoting their product (while making a few bucks), and gives us a chance to see some good cinema.
YouTube says it will make available five films from the 2009 and 2010 festivals for rental starting this Friday and running through Sunday, January 31. YouTube says it has also signed up other U.S. partners from which it will offer a small collection of rental videos in the weeks ahead. And lastly, YouTube will promote its rental program among independents at Sundance with a “Filmmakers Wanted” campaign.
YouTube’s advice: get your checkout account ready, pop some corn, and stock up on swedish fish--it’s showtime!
Unfortunately for OK Go, there's little to no chance that any of their music videos are going to go viral again and get 50 million hits, because as lead singer Damian Kulash puts it, "you can't embed diddlycrap." In an open letter to fans, Kulash offers up a lengthy explanation as to why the decision was made, why it sucks, and why it's a good thing (for some). Oh, and there's an apology thrown in there as well.
"We've been flooded with complaints recently because our YouTube videos can't be embedded in websites, and in certain countries can't be seen at all," Kulash starts off. "And we want you to know: we hear you, and we're sorry. We wish there was something we could do. Believe us, we want you to pass our videos around more than you do, but, crazy as it may seem, it's now far harder for bands to make videos accessible online than it was four years ago."
Kulash goes on to describe record labels as a sort of necessary evil which front all the money to distribute and promote albums, press CDs, make videos, and everything else that "adds up to a great deal more than we have in our bank account." So it's the labels' right to cash in everywhere they can. After all, "they need new shoes, just like everybody else."
That doesn't mean OK Go agrees with EMI's decision, and on the contrary, Kulash says, "It's a decision that bums us out. We've argued with them a lot about it," to no avail, obviously. So "in the meantime, the only thing OK Go can do is to upload our videos to sites that allow for embedding, like MySpace and Vimeo. We do that already, but it stings a little. Not only does it cannibalize our own numbers (it tends do do our business more good to get 40 million hits on one site than 1 million hits on 40 sites), but, as you can imagine, we feel a lot of allegiance to the fine people at YouTube."
How many YouTube videos do you watch on a daily basis? Worse, how many YouTube videos do you send to your friends on a daily basis? If the answer is anywhere near "one or more," and I bet it is, then I've found the perfect Web app for you. Because one of the tough things about forwarding along a funny YouTube video is that you're forced to watch said person enjoy the experience at their leisure. You can't force them to click play, nor can you really appreciate their laughter and enjoyment as it happens in real-time: You don't know how far along they are in the video, after all.
To address this grave concern, some enterprising folk have come up with a Web App that's one part chat-room, two-parts edit bay. It's called Synchtube, and I bet you can guess exactly what it does by the name alone. Don't let that dissuade you from clicking the jump, however. I'll explore Synchtube's many (two) features and tell you exactly why this little Web app is the future of multi-person video viewing and hilarity preservation.
The “Proposition 8” trial is underway in a federal court in San Francisco. The stakes are pretty high as the court sets about on determining the constitutionality of Proposition 8, which prohibits same-sex marriages in California. It came into effect after voters gave it their nod during last fall's elections.
The video of the trial was going to be uploaded onto YouTube after U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker's approval, but the U.S Supreme Court today shot down the entire plan. However, the current ban on YouTube broadcast of the trial will only be in effect until Wednesday. This clearly implies that the Supreme Court will make a final decision after having thoroughly weighed the pros and cons of allowing such a broadcast.
Everyone’s favorite fake conservative Stephen Colbert was apparently questioned by Google lawyers at a recent deposition relating the ongoing Viacom-Youtube case. At issue is Viacom’s assertion that Youtube willfully allowed copyrighted content to be uploaded illegally. The case has been ongoing for almost three years, but may actually go before a judge this year.
Google’s angle is to show that Viacom employees themselves uploaded some of the content. If they can prove this, Google argues that no line can be drawn between illegal content, and that which had Viacom’s permission. Colbert told a crowd at Chicago’s Second City that he was confused if he was supposed to be answering questions as himself, or his TV alter ego. "I had a coffee cup, and I would move it from side to side to differentiate who I was answering for. It was insane," said Colbert. If only the recording of that interview were to find its way onto Youtube; both irony and hilarity would ensue.
Southpark creators Stone and Parker were not forced to answer any questions, presumable because the lawyers were all laughed out after talking to Colbert. They were, however, supposed to provide various documents. They have yet to comply.
In a relative sense YouTube is big--it’s ten times more popular than its nearest competitor. But, YouTube isn’t satisfied--the average user spends a mere 15-minutes a day on the service. It looks at TV and laments: “[People] spend about five hours in front of the television.” And that’s action YouTube wants a piece of.
What’s YouTube’s plan? To give users what they want, even if they don’t know what they want. That way, YouTube hopes, users will spend a few more minutes per day at the site. (And, fingers-crossed, generate more ad revenue for YouTube, which is still losing money.)
According to Jamie Davidson, an associate product manager at YouTube, “every 45 seconds, [users] are stuck at a decision point. Any time there is a decision point, people may leave. We don’t want to take out the interactivity, but the default user experience should be a lot easier.” However, the current search-engine paradigm YouTube uses, Davidson concedes, isn’t the right one for discovering video.
The solution seems simple: let the users decide. Problem is YouTube users generally don’t know what they want. YouTube processed some 3.8 billion search queries in November, second only to its overlord Google. But, rather than specific requests, searches tend to be for general things, like “kittens”, or “funny pranks”. YouTube’s answer is to burrow into your soul, using sophisticated data-mining techniques like Netflix and Amazon, to find hits that match either what you’ve shown a preference for in the past, or what others ‘like you’ are watching.
None of YouTube’s efforts at innovation are expected to be rolled-out anytime soon. But, the ideas, as they come up for serious review, are expected to first see light of day at TestTube, where YouTube shows off its experimental efforts.