From the Actrix Online Informer April 2009

by Rob Zorn

Fun and more with YouTube

Most of us have heard of YouTube, a video sharing website where internet punters can upload video clips that anyone else can watch. This month we'll have a quick look at the history of YouTube and then at some of its uses.

YouTube was started by three employees of Internet payment company, PayPal, back in February 2005. In yet another unbelievable dotcom fairy story, YouTube was bought by Google in 2006 for US$1.65 billion.

All sorts of content is available on YouTube, including movie and television clips and music videos, as well as amateur stuff like blogs and short original videos. It's mostly uploaded by individuals, although corporations sometimes also offer their material via the site.

Anybody at all can watch the videos at YouTube and its free, but you have to become a registered user before you can upload videos of your own.

Videos containing potentially offensive content are available only to registered users over the age of 18 and videos containing defamation, pornography, copyright violations, and material encouraging criminal conduct are prohibited. It is extremely popular, with six billion YouTube videos having been viewed in January 2009 alone.

Copyrighted material is not supposed to be uploaded to YouTube, and uploaders are shown a copyright warning before they add a video. Nevertheless a fair bit of protected material does get added. The site has a system called Video ID, which checks uploaded videos against a database of copyrighted content with the aim of reducing violations, but at the end of the day, it is up to the offended company to issue a take down notice if anything they own is found on YouTube unapproved. Videos are also restricted to 10 minutes in length.

YouTube has a number of uses. Obviously, the first one – and this is something pertaining to most aspects of the Internet – is simply for you to indulge your interests. No matter what you're interested in, chances are somebody will have uploaded a video about it. To test this I entered "How to grow mushrooms" into the search bar, and was overwhelmed with results. It's also a great way to catch up on live performances and rarities by your favourite music performers. Seven out of the top ten video downloads of all time are of music.

If you have time on your hands on a rainy Sunday afternoon, head over to YouTube (, think of something that interests you, and go nuts. You can use it with dialup but it will work a whole lot better with broadband. If you do have dialup and the videos don't download quickly enough for you to play them, pause them for a while until the download bar has moved all the way to the right, then hit play again.

Each time you request a video, YouTube will also provide you with links to similar ones or to videos uploaded by the same person, so one thing can lead to another and that rainy Sunday afternoon will be eaten up in no time! You can't save videos you play on YouTube, unfortunately, so if you really like something, you have to go back and watch it again.

One of the great things about YouTube videos is that they can easily be added to your own website, and this is the second important use I would like to point out. It's called embedding and anyone is allowed to do this.

Each YouTube video is accompanied by a piece of HTML (the simple programming language web pages are made out of), which can be used to embed it anywhere else, just as I've done with the one accompanying this article – though Pachelbel will probably be turning in his grave. This can be done with a few mouse-clicks into your website code and you can do it with existing videos or videos you upload especially for this purpose. It's a great way of sharing information about your website's topic, or videos with family members who are overseas – and you can avoid all the hassle of having to have streaming software and videos hosted at your own website.

If you don't want to have the video played form your website you can simply link to it with a normal hypertext link that will take a browser to the video at the YouTube site. Each video also comes with a direct link (URL) in a box to the right of the video. This is different from the embedding code. You can also link to a specific point in a YouTube video if it's long and you just want to share part of it by adding something like #t=1m08s to the end of the URL in your code. This would take you directly to a point 1 minute and 8 seconds into the video. Note that this doesn't work for embedding.

Okay, let's stop all the technical stuff and have a look at some videos.

Some great YouTube videos

Here are some YouTube videos you might want to check out to get started.

If you'd like to open an account and do more with YouTube, the site features a fairly substantial help centre with lots of instructions and tutorials, many with videos of their own to show you how to get things done.


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