Independent video search engines haven’t really taken off, in part because YouTube is still the one and only brand name associated with web video. That’s changing, especially as the TV networks put their shows online — and off YouTube. But YouTube is firmly entrenched. And a Google design decision shows even the search giant is still having trouble reconciling the general concept of web video search with the YouTube brand.
In the course of searching for a video and the discussion around it, I often go to good old Google.com. If I want to narrow a search down to just the video, there’s a handy drop-down menu. But that’s where it gets confusing. My first option is “Video,” but six options later there’s also “YouTube.” It’s a stark contrast to the other options, all generic terms for types of Google search or Google products (e.g. “Calendar,” “Photos”). This has been the case for months now, since Google stopped offering a link to Video search directly from the home page and put it in the drop-down menu.
We got in touch with Google to ask about the overlap between “Video” and “YouTube” searches: which category users choose more, and whether the redundancy would be ironed out. Google declined to share any user statistics but said the two options “serve complementary functions.” Spokesperson Jennie Johnson told us:
The strength of Google and Google Video has always been in search and search technology, and Google Video continues to focus on technologies that make the world’s online video content more available and accessible. YouTube, meanwhile, is a leading content destination with a dynamic community of users who create, watch and share videos worldwide.
Currently, the “more” tab on the Google search homepage is actually designed to reflect this. When you click on “more,” you’ll notice that the drop-down menu is divided into two categories: search properties (such as Book Search and Blog Search) and, below that, apps properties (for example, Gmail and Calendar). Google Video is listed along with the search services, while YouTube is listed along with other content and community-focused products.
OK, I see what you’re saying, but the “Photos” option actually means “Picasa.” YouTube is the only non-generic term on the list. And clicking on YouTube when I’m searching will give me YouTube-only search results, not just point me to my account on the service, like it does for “Calendar.”
This little layout quirk speaks to the continuing awkwardness between Google Video and YouTube. When I’m searching, I want the best possible results from all over the web. So what if Google Video search gives me mostly YouTube results; if there’s one good Dailymotion option, I want that too. Besides, YouTube search results are even more inferior since the site disabled the option to sort results by popularity. I find it strange that Google doesn’t have the confidence to assert its own offering. What do you think?