US Internet search giant Yahoo has launched a video-sharing service in a move that it hopes will enable it to capitalize on a hot online trend being blazed by the popular young YouTube website.
The Internet media giant aims to recapture share in the fast-emerging market for viewing videos online -- the year's hottest Internet trend -- where Yahoo has lost ground over the past six months to upstart video search company YouTube.
"Our goal is to be the starting place for finding video on the Web," said Jason Zajac, general manager of social media at Yahoo.
The new site is soon to go live at: www.video.yahoo.com.
The redesigned Yahoo Video page will include a search box at the top and editorially chosen feature videos that are topical, interesting or popular among viewers. Users can also browse for video by categories or user-generated tags.
The unveiling of the enhanced Yahoo Video service came as the Sunnyvale, California, company continued to vie with online juggernaut Google for devotees by becoming a place where online communities can build social networks.
Unlike existing video-sharing websites which provide only clips contributed by visitors, Yahoo is merging content uploaded by users with the tens of millions of clips found on the Internet and listed in its index.
"It is all about marrying the open comprehensiveness of search with user-generated content and a chance for you, the publisher, to be found by the Yahoo audience," Zajac said.
"It really is the window to the whole world of web video."
The video listed at Yahoo Video will include links to offerings on popular sights such as Grouper and YouTube, according to Zajac.
The search results page offers more detail on the video content, including source and length, as well as a breakdown of video that either fits in predetermined channels created by Yahoo or by people who have uploaded content, based on a single source or by topic. Viewers will be able to read ratings and reviews and forward content and links to friends via Yahoo Mail or Yahoo Messenger.
If the video is hosted on an outside site, such as YouTube, clicking the "play" button takes the viewer to the other site. Yahoo-hosted video allows people to watch the video directly on the site through an embedded video player.
"Instead of having to discover individual videos one by one, once you have found a source you like, you can keep coming back," Zajac said in a phone interview. Users can also paste the video into their own blogs and other Web sites, as well as create pages of their favorite videos and make those available as public play lists, he said.
It is really worthwhile to create something that people can go back to and not have to find all over again, said IDC analyst Josh Martin, who was briefed on Yahoo's plans.
The new Yahoo Studio allows people to upload their own video, create a profile, and keep track of how many people watched the video and what the ratings are. People who upload video own the content but give Yahoo the rights to play and display it on Yahoo and partner sites, he said.
YouTube, a San Mateo, California-based company with only 30 employees which was founded by two former developers at online payments company PayPal, surged from nowhere earlier this year and now attracts tens of millions of monthly users.
That is five times the U.S. audience of former market leader Yahoo Video Search, according to data from Internet measurement firm Hitwise. MySpace ranks second, Yahoo third and Microsoft Corp.'s MSN is fourth, data shows. Other rapid gainers are start-ups Grouper and Daily Motion.
YouTube became an almost instant Internet staple for music lovers since the website went online. YouTube touts having approximately a quarter of a million music videos posted.
Those who visit the YouTube website can find video clips ranging from amateur offerings to vintage clips such as the Rolling Stones performing in London's Hyde Park in 1969 and Hank Williams's only-known television appearance.
Visitors to the website click on the chosen videos and they stream into boxes that automatically pop up on computer screens. Videos can be viewed, but not downloaded due to a restriction intended to avoid copyright violations.
User Generated Content
Taking advantage of the growing availability of broadband Internet connections, YouTube has made its name as the playground of quirky short-form videos contributed by users. It has yet to figure out how to make money off its service, through some form of advertising or other money-making effort.
To date, Yahoo had taken a cautious approach to serving up user-created video that is suddenly all the rage on the Web, focusing instead on acting as a showcase for professionally produced videos available across the Web or sports, news and entertainment programming licensed or created by Yahoo itself.
"If you are the content owner, you upload and give us the right to play it, syndicate it to third parties and monetize it," Zajac said, noting ads would be posted on the pages playing videos.
Zajac said Yahoo is applying an editorial process to its video search home page that balances high-quality programming against the popularity contest for the latest joke videos.
Of course, users have access to all the content across the Yahoo network, Zajac said. "What we are adding to that is user-generated content."
The changes Yahoo is introducing to its video search service combine an uncluttered design look with linkages to its wider network of other Internet properties. Video-makers both amateur and pro can now upload a video to Yahoo. Users can then post a version of their favorite videos onto their own Web sites using an embedded Yahoo video player.
"This is a good step for Yahoo," Martin said. The next move for the Sunnyvale, California-based company is to connect together video content across its network of sites ranging from news to travel to sports fantasy leagues. "Yahoo has stuff that others like Google or YouTube does not," he said.
In addition, Yahoo devised a ranking system based on feedback from "its community" and the frequency with which videos are viewed. Visitors can sort videos by tabs and customize "channels" to their interests.
Video providers can create profiles to tell viewers about themselves and their work.
"We give everybody a chance to be found," Zajac told AFP. "The chance to have ‘15 seconds of fame’ on Yahoo."
Submissions to Yahoo Video get reviewed for "adult, offensive, or infringing" content and the company responds to "take-down" notices from owners of copyrighted material, according to Zajac.
Yahoo Video search was launched in 2004 and serves "hundreds of millions of videos monthly," Zajac said. While the index of videos searched out by web crawling programs was in the tens of millions, the cache of uploaded unique content was just getting started, according to the company.
Some Yahoo video pages will have banner ads, and eventually the site will display video ads. "As we go forward, Yahoo has all the systems, technology and sales people in place to run video ads as well," Zajac said.
The site competes with YouTube, AOL, Microsoft, Blinkx and Google Video, which provides access only to video that Google hosts and not from across the Web.