May 2, 2006

The YouTube tipping puzzle !

Posted in Category: Work — Amr Awadallah @ 12:32 am | link | | comment (0)
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Currently I am faced with a strong puzzle trying to explain why did YouTube tip much faster than any of its competitors, even competitors that were well established before YouTube appeared on the scene.

The chart below shows the Alexa rank for YouTube versus a number of other competitors in the video hosting space (this chart is on a log scale):


YouTube Alexa Rank

Notice how the YouTube growth (the cyan curve) is very fast and in a few months it surpasses MetaCafe, StupidVideos, and aBum, that is despite YouTube having a rather strict policy against adult content (which is more prevalent in all the other sites).

Many folks believe that the popular SNL “Lazy Sunday: Chronicles of Narnia” video is what made YouTube tip. That claim is negated by the chart above and also from the PV chart below, since the SNL clip was live on YouTube around Dec 17th, 2005, and notice that YouTube was well ahead of its competitors before that date. The video was pulled around mid Feb 2006 due to a nice letter from NBC lawyers, you can see the video on NBC’s site):


YouTube Alexa PVs

So really, I am puzzled by the YouTube growth, the only theories I have are the following:

  • A product that is designed from ground up to be super-viral, lots of support for email, community, online badges, and positive networking effects (ala Flickr), though MetaCafe had very similar features and did not grow this fast (they are the second fastest, but still way behind on the pv curve).
  • Strong initial association with MySpace. This was kind of a naive move by MySpace to let them fill that role, but as you know, MySpace is trying to take that back now (they started hosting videos a couple of months back).

Do you know of any other possible reasons for why YouTube strongly outpaced its competitors ? please shoot them my way by commenting on this blog entry.

Before I close, I happen to agree strongly with a blog posting by Mark Cuban, in that posting he initially expresses some jealousy of the YouTube success (note that he is truly the first person with such a vision for broadcast.com, just many years early to market), but then later on in that post he comments on how these sites will not be able to make enough advertising money to cover all the bandwidth costs.

— amr

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