Is Facebook the new YouTube? Is this match really the next evolution of video streaming, as the fight of Facebook vs YouTube is now under way?
YouTube is, at the moment, and I’ll most likely keep repeating this in the future, is a lawless town. A village in which networks like Machinima and Fullscreen can apply the Rule of Three to remove any competition if necessary, with them and other YouTubers frequently using this tactic when it comes to censorship.
And when I say Rule of Three, I mean YouTube’s golden rule, which says that after three copyright strikes you’ve lost your channel, the right to own a channel and the right to post on the site itself.
However, if YouTube is a lawless town, Facebook is a Potemkin village, where even practices such as revealing parts of the truth, or even just facts, can turn into a real disaster.
Facebook, at the moment, has a problem when it comes to integrating a system to protect content creators. Something YouTube at least, has a claim to, though only partially successful and highly criticized, but they do.
Facebook on the other hand have major gaps in this regard, a clear example being a recent study by Ogilvy and Tubular Labs who take a close look at the most popular clips uploaded in the first half of 2015, revealing an inconvenient truth for Facebook.
Of all videos uploaded during this period, 725 of them are content which is re-uploaded to the social platform, but not by the copyright owner. In conclusion, the 17 billion views generated by these 725 clips are equal to… zilch. One might even be able to say that Facebook has become one of the biggest – if not THE biggest – copyright offender on the planet.
Facebook, slowly but surely, have been trying to enter the world of video streaming for a while now, even announcing the introduction of a profit-share program for users who upload content to Facebook. Which might not sound bad, as long as they can put together a system to protect original video content creators, and not let other users re-upload YouTube videos just to make a dishonest dollar.
Now, please don’t misunderstand, there is nothing wrong with re-uploading a clip on Facebook, as long as one provides the source in the video description, and the clip is licensed under Creative Commons, allowing free circulation of information, with both the creator, as well as other users, being able to use pieces of that clip. The problem is when that video does not bear the CC badge, in which case the person re-uploading the video, legally speaking, may face charges of violating intellectual property rights.
If we analyze the information provided by Facebook, which claims that Facebook has increased the number of video views up to 75% overall and 94% in the US, then the growth is exponentially higher than Youtube. The problem is that this is only a partial truth. Exactly what we discussed earlier.
The difference between YouTube and Facebook is huge at the moment, especially when talking about how the clips themselves are indexed, with Facebook auto-starting all videos whenever you pass the mouse over them or when you scroll down the news feed. Matt Pakes, Facebook Product Manager and the man responsible everything video-related on the platform, was one of the “brilliant” minds that have decided that a lower limit on “user engagement” of just three seconds makes sense.
In our opinion, this is either a choice made for promotion – so that Facebook can justify the claim to all those billions of views – or a case in which Mr Pakes is completely unhinged from reality.
We also have to take into account the way Facebook handles information, with the user being afforded the “ability” to pay to increase the popularity of the video, which on YouTube is illegal. In short, YouTube is still somewhat of a meritocracy, where your work is (or should be) rewarded according to effort and talent, while you can just shovel some money into Facebook and wake up overnight with hundreds of thousands of views, just because you reached somebody’s feed – for three seconds.
This is wonderful for the more black-hat oriented internet marketers, of course, who can promote digital “products” of uncertain quality based on statistical analysis of conversion rates, and so long as the cost of promotion stays under the expected returns, they will keep promoting endlessly into oblivion – in essence, precisely what Google has worked so hard during these last few years to prevent, with great strides forward being made with the roll-out of algorithms like Panda, Penguin and Hummingbird.
When you post something on Facebook, that does not automatically mean that your message reaches everyone that gave likes to your Fan Page, as I said, yet the user has the option to “boost” his traffic, and thus have the information reach a wider range of users… but only if he pays. We should also mention that Facebook penalizes YouTube clips, bottle-necking that traffic source even further.
Facebook indexes a view when a clip reaches the third second of playback, whether the sound is turned on or off. Most often the sound is turned off, because many users simply watch the clip without bothering to turn on the audio. Or even more likely, the user is reading some other post or notification above the fold, while the video plays automatically.
In essence, a silent film.
Now, whether Facebook is still playing with our feelings (cue the rainbow profile picture) or not, we have no way of knowing (ahem). However, what we do know with certainty is that YouTube tried this in the past, but dropped the concept the second in which thousands of god-awful clips started reaching the first page of YouTube. This was back when the first page of the site was something sensational. Now everything is automated, most often users finding new video content based on YouTube’s suggestions.
And here comes the big rift between the two platforms. I’ll avoid writing a twisted polemic in which I point fingers at one or the other, because in the end Facebook is currently the only platform that can compete with Google. And if capitalism has taught us something useful, it is that where there’s competition, great things can happen. Unfortunately, Facebook has a long race to run to catch up with Google, particularly in video, the differences that arise when two clips are uploaded simultaneously to both platforms being quite overwhelming.
Let’s not forget Yahoo, which has been struggling since last year to make a name for itself on the independent video content market with some success, Yahoo Screen becoming quite popular lately. Not to the standards of Youtube or Facebook, but enough to at least start catching up, ranking 5th in the world, compared with Youtube which occupies a humble 4th place and Facebook which is ranked 2nd, statistics made public by Wikipedia and Alexa.com.
If, until now, the competition between Google and Facebook had been present in the form of a struggle between Google+ (may it rest in pieces) and Facebook, now everything moves to video, where Google has all the cards in hand and where Facebook, if they want a fighting chance, will need a few tankers of sheer dumb luck, accompanied by a straight flush on the flop, with a sprinkle of divine assistance and a willing sacrifice to the owl god.
I will also make a small mention about the copyright issues, the view indexing system, the impossibility of searching for specific videos a.k.a. lack of a dedicated video sharing interface, as well as the fact that Facebook has been repeatedly criticized by a host of famous YouTubers and we have a recipe for a probable fiasco.
However, there may be a ray of hope in all this darkness, consisting of the scenario where Facebook realizes the error of its ways, listens to the complaints of YouTube users and gives them more favorable conditions, and then it’s possible something good can happen.
But I do not see the exodus happening in the near future, partially because I expect they’d rather plow ahead hoping for total VR domination, and because Facebook has forgotten the first rule of a successful company: “Learn from the mistakes of the competition”, which is apparently something they haven’t done. And to think that all these problems have started from a Facebook post!?