I've been pondering the content for this post for the past few days, and I thought I had it figured out. Then I saw this headline today, and it changed the whole nature of my post.
Originally, I was going to write about recent online articles foreshadowing the demise of YouTube. The speculation was based on a couple of points. First, YouTube has run afoul of copyright holders in recent weeks, specifically related to music-video content. Ordinarily, YouTube's video police remove material that they believe may infringe on a copyright, but with thousands of clips uploaded daily, they can't always catch them all. Second, YouTube has had problems with download speed and efficiency, because they host all the videos on the site themselves, and the demand can be immense. That frustrates users.
Personally, I didn't think YouTube would necessarily go down the drain, but I did think that they needed to re-work their model a bit. One of my favorite web sites is also (I think) the smartest in terms of its model. That's Fark.com. Fark is an online community that generates revenue from ad sales, as well as a small ($5/month) fee from premium users. Regular membership is free. Fark offer links to articles, video, audio, and other materials - but they don't host any of it. All of the media is hosted by external sources. In fact, all of the content is generated by the community itself - Fark doesn't create any new content on its own. The very best part is that even when user-submitted links are broken (or "farked"), a visit to the comments forum will usually bring a new link or a workaround submitted by another contributor. It's like a self-healing web ring. And if you doubt there's any money in it, Fark currently generates about $60,000 per month in revenue.
The moral? Well, I don't have a moral. I'm just astonished that the demand for user-generated, generally crappy home video is worth over a billion and a half dollars. I'm going to go home and sulk, then get to work on the Next Big Thing.