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From Web 2.0: Video YouWho?

Leslie Walker

YouTube is so last month. Sure, this Web sensation became synonymous with online video less than a year after it started and then took our breath away when its twenty-something founders sold out to Google four weeks ago for $1.65 billion.

But other Internet video entrepreneurs are already looking ahead and some of what they see makes them anxious.

Speaking to a standing-room-only audience at the annual Web 2.0 Summit in San Francisco on Tuesday, a panel of online video veterans -- or what passes for veterans in this emerging space -- predicted a year of turbulence and change.

Already, users are finding the sheer of volume of videos available on the Internet too difficult to digest and are looking for new ways to pick through them.

Mary Hodder, chief executive of Dabble, which helps users search and organize online videos, estimated that 200,000 videos are uploaded onto the Web every day. YouTube represents a third of that figure, while PhotoBucket, Metacafe and AOL each account for between 25,000 and 30,000 videos daily. Users, she said, "will look for people to filter that enormous firehouse of content." They'll want to be given the five or 10 videos each day that best fit their interests.

Josh Felser, president of Grouper Networks, recently acquired by Sony, said online video sites will soon specialize. "When you go to YouTube, you're not sure what you're going to find," he said. "Each site is going to have to choose a focus."

At one extreme, some sites will feature professional, copyrighted material from traditional broadcasting and movie companies. At the other extreme will be sites offering amateurs a place to share videos with family and friends, perhaps highlights of the weekend camping trip or junior's birthday. Yet another set of sites will occupy the middle ground, giving aspiring professionals a place to post their creations. "If we try to focus on all kinds of video, I think we'll fail," Felser warned.

According to Mike Folgner, chief executive of Jumpcut, users will take matters into their own hands. They will make sense of the online anarchy by creating playlists of their favorite videos and then sharing them with their friends.

The challenge is only going to get more daunting. As Web sites learn how to make money off videos through advertising, there will be a push to make more and more of them available. And these won't be limited to video sites. All across the Web, entrepreneurs will want to tap into the growing revenue stream by including video on their sites.

The flood could become overwhelming unless the Internet figures out how to help users discover what they really want to watch. That's one of the greatest challenges on the Internet today, Felser said, and one that keeps him up at night.

By Alan Sipress  |  November 8, 2006; 7:12 AM ET  | Category:  Alan Sipress
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