The Internet has never been more powerful than it is right now. It’s at its peak of access for the developed world, the advances made have been faster than all other times that the actual implementation, and the engagement and participation with the Internet community (and its subsets of communities) has never been higher. The best example of this if, of course, YouTube. It has seen a popularity usually only reserved for the right and for the rich and famous – and the sight has, in fact, created and been used by them. In mid-2005, the website ranked in the 100,000’s of all websites. Now, in 2007, it’s in the top ten. Its popularity has, roughly, doubled each and every quarter, and has only now begun to flatten out – viewed by just under 15% of all Internet users every day. As a reference, Google.com has a viewer-ship of 23%, and Yahoo.com, ranked number one of all websites, has 26%. So I don’t think YouTube has done a whole lot wrong with those sorts of rankings.
Thus we see that more and more people are delving into the YouTube world, and any regular (and veteran) user will notice the effect. Once, YouTube used to be a fun, non-serious, blog/humour/cats-centric video website. Not anymore. It’s a semi-serious, if not fully-fledged, tool of community change and awareness. I speak, of course, of the YouTube community and the wider Internet community that is being changed by this simple video-hosting website. There are two perfect examples of this change occurring. The first is the ‘One World’ campaign. It’s been going on for some time now, and basically it started out with a user, MadV, who wrote “One World” on his palm in texta and invited people to ‘do better’. This, eventually, led to a collective of people (mainly the popular faces of YouTube popularity) who try and bring about change for people. They have had at least one campaign that I heard of, though I never really was interested in that aspect of YouTube at the time. However, it saw success, and there continues to be reference to the idea of ‘harmony’ and ‘peace’ that was idealised in the ‘One World’ original video.
The second example I’m going to bring to your attention is one that I did keep track of. Late last year, people began to notice that the people who made their fame on YouTube began to spread their endeavours to the real world; some received real television and movie jobs, some were hired by websites to host personal shows etc. And these people asked wondered: If unknown people can use the Internet and YouTube to establish a status of celebrity within that community, perhaps already famous people can become more renowned within the same community by similar actions. Could an already establish celebrity, with a name and a face that everyone knew, make it on YouTube?
I believe that yes was the answer, and here is the example: The CNN/YouTube Debates. The users of YouTube were invited to record and post their questions to the potential candidates, which were then used in the latest round of debates. The Democratic debates were on Monday in America, while the Republican debate is on September 17. There was a mixed response to the result of the debate, but it stands to reason that now YouTube is an actual political tool.
And it isn’t a recent occurrence. I’ve been subscribed to Obama’s video channel for a long time now, and I get videos from him every week: of his talks with people, on the campaign trail, advertisements etc. It’s quite interesting. And he isn’t the only politician to use YouTube for his own gain: there’s an entire category in the channels (types of users) tab that is solely devoted to the ’08 candidates here. I believe that Hillary Clinton was the first to start on YouTube, though I may be wrong there. Either way, there are 16 politicians streaming their videos and messages to the users. And, now with the debate gone-by and the debate-to-come, there is going to be more talk and more use and more political clout given to YouTube – political clout in the sense that the users are able to freely discuss, from around the world, their political ideas and beliefs, and ultimately, do good for the whole democratic process. Discussion and interest, I believe, of politics is the key and fundamental ideal that separates the whole process from a popularity contest. If people are talking and thinking and sharing views, and thus holding politicians accountable, then surely this must aid the whole political scene.
Sure it might hurt the phoneys among the groups in that their shortfalls and ignorance are more widely exposed and seen, but we don’t want these people ruling the world, do we?