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Monday, January 30, 2006

Google Video: Trash Mixed With Treasure - New York Times

By now, everybody knows that anything audio is eventually followed by something video. Radio first, then TV. Audio tape, then videotape. CD, then DVD. Music iPod, then video iPod. And then, of course, there's Apple's iTunes Music Store. (i would add podcast, then video podcast. and blog, then vlog. but maybe these are too new.)

Google's video store is a far less controlled experiment than Apple's. In fact, Google doesn't even call it a video store; it prefers "the first open video marketplace." Its big, Google-esque, democratic idea is that anyone, from the biggest TV network to the most talent-free camera-phone owner, is allowed to post videos for all the world to see - and to buy.

If it sounds a bit chaotic, you're right; Google Video's hallmark is its wild inconsistency. On iTunes, you always know what the price will be: $2 an episode. Every show is downloadable and transferable to an iPod. And you know the quality you're going to get: great color and clarity, professional production values, no ads. At Google's video emporium, on the other hand, anything goes.

Yet among this tidal wave of junk, you'll also find some amazing, free, jaw-dropping caught-on-tape moments, those funny Web videos that are passed around by e-mail and eventually attain mythic status; Google Video keeps them in a category called Popular.

It's the same stuff you'll find on sites like youtube.com and stupidvideos.com: hilarious TV commercials that are too racy to show in the United States, clips that would fit right in with "America's Funniest Home Videos," and favorite snippets from network shows.

There is, in all of this, the seed of a great idea: a bustling marketplace, a chance for ordinary people with great ideas, luck or timing to make a little money from their video, while Google handles all the technical server gruntwork.

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