YouTube’s Global Ambitions Get Local

YouTube Tuesday is rolling out local versions of its video site in Brazil, France, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Netherlands, Poland, Spain, and the U.K. Each new version of the site has been translated with a localized home page and search function, with local comments, rankings, and categories to be added at a later date.

The announcement was expected after various leaks and hints, and we had predicted it last week. While YouTube has done more than anyone to bring online video to a global scale, it trails LiveUniverse in the U.K. and Dailymotion in France.

The majority of YouTube traffic already comes from international countries, said YouTube co-founder and CTO Steve Chen in an interview Monday. “But due to lack of resources and international expertise when YouTube was an independent company, we could never have really gone down this path,” he explained.

As for its international experience, YouTube has previously run into trouble with governments who disagree with content posted to its site, and often capitulates to their idea of what is appropriate. The new rollouts do not include any change to how YouTube treats such situations, according to YouTube co-founder and CEO Chad Hurley. “At the end of the day we want to always maintain a platform that respects local laws and customs,” he said.

The initiative is part of the ongoing Google-ization of YouTube, and is led by YouTube’s new international manager, Sakina Arsiwala, who previously managed international search for Google.

YouTube’s broadcast partners in the rollout countries, many of which come from previously unannounced deals, include the BBC, France 24, the Spanish Antena 3 and Cuatro TV, the Portuguese RTP, the Dutch VPRO and NPO; European football clubs such as Chelsea FC, AC Milan, Barcelona FC and Real Madrid; and non-profit organizations such as Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth, UNHCR and Medecins du Monde, the company said via email.

Google has been busy getting its video ducks in a row. Last week the company ramped up Google Video as a search engine — further differentiating it from YouTube’s approach to community and content. Also, YouTube added somewhat limited remixing tools and a beta interface.