Where Embeds Go to Die

The internet is a transitory place, but you can generally rely on web pages hanging around for a while. Text and photos don’t start disappearing from online articles at random. Google is aggravatingly good at storing every little bit of information about you that’s ever made it online. But when it comes to web video, it seems you’re in luck if a clip lasts the night.

We see this all the time in our posts; as soon as something takes off, like the anti-gay Christian rock prank, or Bridezilla of “Wig Out” fame, or the recording of an insane skydive accident, the video we’re using to help tell a story disappears. Sometimes that’s because the content is copyrighted and not licensed, sometimes the creator has a beef, sometimes the clip is deemed inappropriate.

This week Rex Sorgatz of Filmoculous revisited an article on the music site Pitchfork from June about 100 Awesome Music Videos and found 54 of them were no longer available. He writes:

There was a brief moment where these types of posts opened our eyes to the potential of a new form of curatorial criticism of video, with a mashup of moving illustrations that were controlled by users. Suddenly, you could image whole new ways to conceive of writing about the history of visual culture. Now, just months later, that vision has been practically erased.

Perhaps we were just too spoiled in the early days of YouTube, expecting anything and everything would be available for our viewing and sharing pleasure. Though the site, now firmly established as a destination, is not hurting for traffic after extensive takedowns.

We regularly complain when video sites don’t have the capability for embeds, bitching self-righteously about their anti-viral sensibilities. Embed widgets were crucial to YouTube’s meteoric rise, encouraging viewers to share videos in their own context, and thus bringing their viewers into YouTube through the back door. Add a little pixie dust, and suddenly you’re $1.65 billion richer.

Ah, how we miss the halcyon days of 2006.

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