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Early YouTube Engineer Tells All

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When we recently heard about the history of YouTube’s growth strategy from CEO Chad Hurley’s point of view, he described it as “hanging onto a rocket.” But an engineer’s take is always going to be a bit less rose-colored and a bit more about the terrifying situations you brained your way out of. So we were particularly interested to tune in to a talk at YouTube’s developer conference Thursday by Cuong Do, an early software engineer who’s now manager of the site’s Core Product Engineering group.

Do’s talk was titled “Behind the Scenes: A Look Into YouTube’s Infrastructure,” and he didn’t disappoint, with harrowing tales of outages; gory details about the specific languages, architectures, and tools YouTube uses; and a flow-chart level view on the way the site handles uploads and video delivery while undergoing the massive usage it sees on a daily basis. [digg=]

“One of the key phrases we had in the early days was ‘These are good problems to have,'” Do said. “And after a while we’re like, ‘I’m going to kill the next person who says that.'”

YouTube promised it would post video from the talk on its site eventually, but I don’t see it there yet, so check out the version from my handheld camera.

20 Responses to “Early YouTube Engineer Tells All”

  1. PS,

    Thanks to Mukul for going to the trouble of posting a transcript for everyone. That’s what makes GigaOm’s community of users/readers a nice ‘family’ to be a part of.

  2. Hey Liz,

    Thanks for the note back. We all learn as we go, so it’s something that, with more advanced planning, can only get better for events like this that we all appreciate having the GigaOm team be our ‘fly on the wall’ for.

  3. Hey Will, you’re right about sucking at video. I was just psyched to be present for the talk and figured more people would want to see it too so I pulled out the camera in my purse. But I promise we will get better in the future!

  4. Well worth watching.
    For all the right reasons, YouTube launched on with solid, configurable open source components:
    Apache / Lighttpd

    …until user demand crushed them, and they had to move to Google distribution tech such as bigtable, and database shards.

    An articulate alpha geek with terrible jokes :-)

  5. I love GigaOm and the scope of the reporting, but you guys suck at video.

    Perhaps you could invest in a shotgun mic that picks up distant audio more clearly; a portable monopod that steadies the shot; and sit far enough back so that we can see the entire screen.

    Don’t get me wrong, I really appreciate being able to see the video, but you need to improve your technique, otherwise instead of being a ‘value-added resource’, it becomes an annoyance.


    Anyone know if Scribd or anyone else has a copy of his PPT?