Happy Birthday! Google Video Is One Year Old!

The 12 months that changed media.

In January of 2006, I was at conference in Las Vegas called NATPE. There, Google had set up a booth and was beginning to talk about digitizing video for a new product called Google Video. You could feel the excitement around the idea of moving video to the web. It was early days, but it was happening. Larry Page had announced Google video at CES just a few weeks earlier, and the media business was keenly interested.

By February of 2006, Google Video was live, and accepting submissions. And I - always the early adopter - was anxious to see just what kind of response online video would have. YouTube was already making waves, but it seemed then more like it might be teen content or amateur content on YouTube, and content that could really give content creators a piece of the long tail on Google. At least that was how it looked way back in February of 2006.

Wondering how to explore video on the web, it seemed to me then that folks were looking for less polished, more authentic material in their web searches. So, I did something I'd never done before - and went looking for raw material in my film archives. Because I had Directed 7 Days in September I was gathering material for a very large archive of 9/11 material at the same time, and mostly it had been sitting on hard drives in our edit room. Because the elements of the film were already digitized, transferring the raw footage to Google was pretty easy. And so, on January 24th 2006 I posted my first clip on Google Video: "Amateur Pilot Files Over World Trade Center - Pre 9/11." By mid February, I had hundreds of clips of 9/11 video posted.

The thing you have to remember is that this wasn't yet visible to a regular Google search, and there was no marketing or PR associated with it. We just put it there, and forgot about it.

A few weeks later - I checked to see what was happening with the 9/11 archive material on Google. My jaw dropped. Over a million video clips had been viewed. Still today that number is startling. For journalists, media companies, networks, and anyone who makes a living telling stories - the audience had spoken loud and clear. They wanted raw material, they wanted to explore footage that was often long, out of focus, or without context. And they were just getting started. By may, the number continued to climb. The New York Times took notice, and by mid summer the video viewers were well over 2 million. A massive audience, exploring raw media without a tour guide or a narrator. Now to be fair, 9/11 is not your average media content. That is for sure. People are hungry to understand 9/11 - in particular in the context of Iraq. But nonetheless, the results where not at all what I expected. At the same time, by mid summer 2006 - YouTube was moving in to the front position as the place to upload (and therefore to find) user-generated video. I put a handful of clips up on YouTube, and the results were just as dramatic.

Today the 9/11 Archive has been seen more than 2.5 million times. And we've posted more than 1,500 pieces of media on Google to share.

By August of 2006, when Google Video was just 6 months old, I watched as the head of Google Video and the head of YouTube appeared together on a panel in San Jose. The way they both described their services, it was clear to me then that there was the making of a good partnership.

On September 11th, 2006 - I made a decision that would change the way I think of filmmaking forever. With the 5th Anniversary so clearly and important milestone - I decided not to play 7 Days in September on network TV. Instead, I took the entire film - and encoded it and put it up on Google Video as well. Why? I'm not sure. Frankly, I'd been so moved by the number of people who'd been hungry to see the raw footage - I felt they might like to see my documentary view of how the material was organized into a coherent story. Sure, it was my take on the events - and yes, there were plenty of other points of view, but I wanted to continue the conversation further and putting my film out there seemed like the right thing to do. My film has been seen 64,410 times on Google - a tiny portion of the views of the Archive itself. But that seems as it should be.

And so, with the Year of Google video now moving into the late fall, the word came out that Google would be buying YouTube. To me, it seemed inevitable... and important. The life of video on the web has many uses, and many personalities. YouTube had won the right to call itself a video destination, and Google clearly provides a critical role in finding though search.

So - one year, almost to the day Google Video announced a series of changes. It would begin to index YouTube - allowing searchers to find videos on both serivices. Various pundits have suggested that Google will return to search, and YouTube will be the single destination for uploading and watching video. I don't know if that is exactly what will happen. It hardly matters.

What matters is that in one short year, Video on the Web was born, evolving, morphing, and now the era of destination sites and uploading will consolidate. That is only good. Because Google, YouTube, and many of the others leaders in this space are doing important work laying the groundwork for the emerging video ecosystem that we can now see on the horizon.

2,534,724. Two Million views. That's the number of views that the 9/11 Archive has received on Google since I put up a clip in January of 2006.

Just one year old, and video on the web has transformed how people make, share, and engage media. It's pretty staggering. Worth noticing. Because this is only the beginning. As we enter the era of video discovery, video encoding and storage will seem like a footnote in the history yet to come.

Happy Birthday Google Video.