The deterioration of YouTube is an inevitability. Like a dwarf star who becomes a red giant and then supernovas into dark matter (if I’m wrong about how the universe works, don’t correct me, Poindexter — I’ve got emotional issues), YouTube will eventually grow too big for itself and explode, implode or straight go belly up like a possum. Unlike the mighty possum however, YouTube will not be merely playing dead. The how is not yet known — we’ve seen creepings of it — from too much diversification to paid subscriptions, to the shift in the very matter of content watched. Everything means something in the world of YouTube — for every yin, there is a yang; for every cause in the video site, there is an effect. And all of this shift and change does not bode well for the long-term of a site that is still fumbling with the idea of profitability.
We’re not here to speculate what causes the death of YouTube though: no, that inevitability is a speculation for a different article. Instead, we’re going to look at the very particles of this particular dwarf star and try to surmise just what the hell the future will look like. For all you non-Muggles, we’re about to get into some straight up divination. For all the rest of you, we’re shifting from astronomy into astrology.
We already know Vine is not the answer. If Vine were the answer, it would already be the answer. But in the year since Vine’s inception, and its subsequent acquisition by Facebook’s rival Twitter, Vine has never really lived up to its own hype. As you can see in this graph from Topsy.com, Vine’s shares rate dropped off 40% when Instagram video was made available. A week later it was down 70% (Digital Trends). Even though Vine has since added features to make it more competitive with Instagram video — Vine now allows for basic editing and projects multitasking — the answer to the next golden age of content aggregation, sorry to say for Vine and Instagram Video (with its “enhanced” 15 second viewing window), doesn’t appear to lie in time constraints. Sure we like our videos short, but we don’t want them to adhere to some invisible clock.
As the story of Napster has foretold before it, people like free things. That’s not a surprise — what is a surprise though, is how people are willing to pay for the perception of quality a la iTunes. I don’t think one can go so far as to say people are inherently honest because they are willing to pay $1.29 for a single song they like, I think it is more likely that they are tired of malware, spam and the headaches associated with finding free music. We’re more a path of least resistance society, if anything. I don’t think paid subscriptions will work out in the long run for YouTube personally, and I don’t think that whatever supplants YouTube is going to follow the subscription route either.
And with the shift in YouTube’s primary content structure, it becomes theoretically possible to deduce the tidal shift in the evolution of content on YouTube’s successor. Why in the last two years alone we’ve seen the mantle of most subscribed channel pass from a localized content reviewer (Ray William Johnson) to an original content creator (Smosh) to, now, a commercialized content commentator (PewDiePie). What this means in layman’s terms is that YouTube has seen a shift in the popularity of a “non-creator” (RWJ selects other YouTube videos and provides funny commentary on them) to original content creators (Smosh makes their own videos featuring original skits and humor) to PewDiePie broadcasting himself making comments and reviewing popular video games. Essentially, what people want is a constant fluctuation in content and content development. There is no consensus on what is the best of all worlds — at any given time, some other trend will extend outward take the reins of popularity, only to fall back in line when the “term limits” of its shelf life is reached.
So, to keep this analysis short and sweet, what people want is an ideally free video service with no time constraints and a constant evolution of new formats and ideas that can democratically win in a free market economy through a system of voting and unbiased popular appeal (I decided to knock out the paragraph where I bash YouTube for allowing Vivo-like applications to monkey around with its view counts and whatnot — it’s a given in this NSA-crazed current climate that people don’t want their opinions f**ked with). Now what to you sounds like the next coming of YouTube? To me, a subscription-free, advertising-untainted, system of pure popularity rules video aggregation sounds like the YouTube of just a few short, sweet years ago before profit motive became involved. Yes, YouTube is not free to run, yes it costs money. But that doesn’t mean it has to generate money! Profiting off of YouTube should be a byproduct, not an endgame. If YouTube could get back to its roots, we wouldn’t have to have conversations about its death.