Microsoft Soapbox – Too Little, Too Late

Microsoft Soapbox – Too Little, Too Late
Image representing YouTube as depicted in Crun...
Image via CrunchBase

Well, it looks like the war is over.  Microsoft is conceding to YouTube by scaling back on their video service Soapbox.

Wait, Microsoft has a video service?  Apparently they do.

For some reason, Microsoft likes to try to make an application to compete in every market.  When it comes to online video, this really doesn’t make sense.

In economics, the network effect refers to the “effect that one user of a good or service has on the value of that product to other people” (Wikipedia).  Video sites like YouTube are an example of a positive network effect.  The more people that use the site, the more valuable the site becomes.

Because YouTube absolutely dominates other video services in number of users (it is currently the number 4 visited site on the internet according to Alexa), the value of a video posted on YouTube is higher than that of one posted on another video site such as Blip.tv or Vimeo.  Even though these services provide higher quality video compression and embeds, it is hard to beat the reach you can achieve with YouTube.

So what are the implications of YouTube’s dominance of online video?  When it comes to storytelling online, there are a few.  Primarily, when making a video for the web, it is best to have YouTube’s standards in mind.  This means 10 minutes in length maximum and the compression that YouTube recommends at the time.  Because YouTube has finally gone widescreen, storytellers can more freely shoot in 16×9.  Until about 6 months ago, this wasn’t the case.

Moreover, storytellers online need to take the YouTube community and culture into account if they wish to reach a broad audience.  Short videos are preffered for most, and something that catches attention early is necessary.  What might work well in a more traditional television or DVD setting might fail on YouTube.  Because of YouTube’s large market share, storytellers are constrained by their policies and culture moreso than other video services.

While I may not like the fact that I am constrained by YouTube’s policies and culture when I create online video, I do think it is wise for Microsoft to pull back their video service.  With something as powerful and wide-reaching as YouTube, we really don’t need another video service.  Services like Vimeo and Blip.tv are great providers for niche users, but Microsoft clearly isn’t a niche-chasing company.

Very few people have every heard of Soapbox.  With the immense amount of value coming out of YouTube, that really isn’t a bad thing.

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