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The Decade in Online Video, Part 2: Time to Upload

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At NewTeeVee, we usually prefer to talk about the future rather than the past. In light of a decade coming to an end that brought us everything from BitTorrent to YouTube, we made an exception and chronicled the development of online video over the last 10 years.

We’ve summarized the years from 2000 to 2004 here, from the dotcom bust to the birth of user-generated content. This post will focus on the second half of the decade, starting in 2005. Once again, we’ll concentrate on a few major events and trends in an effort to make the history of online video bloggable.

2005 was the year when online video ceased to be a one-way street. Users had more and more cheap video recording equipment at hand and a flurry of new sites to help them share clips with friends and strangers alike., and Dailymotion all launched in 2005, as did a little site founded by three guys named Chad Hurley, Steve Chen and Jawed Karim. YouTube’s first video got uploaded on April 23rd, showing co-founder Karim at the San Diego Zoo. The site went into beta in May and officially launched in November.

Future YouTube owner Google (s GOOG) also started to explore online video in ’05. The search engine began to allow users to upload clips to Google Video and sell them to end users, with the idea of eventually selling major TV content. AOL began to offer free, ad-supported full-length TV show episodes through its awkwardly named In2TV platform, but had to settle for oldies like Kotter and Wonder Woman because the networks were wary of releasing new content online. Slightly more promising wasan offer trialed by the BBC in the same year: The Beeb’s Integrated Media Player gave viewers the chance to catch up on much of its programming online within a seven-day window. The platform soon expanded and eventually became known as the iPlayer. 2005 also saw the launch of the Slingbox as well as the iPod Video, and Kevin Rose co-founded Revision3.

2006 was a year of validation for the online video space. Rocketboom landed its first ad deals in February, Sony (s SNE) bought video startup Grouper in August, and YouTube became an unstoppable force. Google (s GOOG) bought the site in October for $1.65 billion.

2006 was also the year Swedish police raided The Pirate Bay’s data center. The move was meant to take the quickly growing torrent site offline, but it took the Bay only three days to come back, and the resulting world-wide publicity only heightened awareness of BitTorrent as a great way to get Hollywood fare for free. Other torrent sites profited as well, with Mininova becoming the ninth-most-searched word on Google that year. Forrester Research reported in April that 25 percent of all Internet users were watching videos online. That message was not lost on TV networks: began streaming full episodes of Lost and Desperate Housewives in the spring of ’06, and Amazon started selling TV show episodes as well as movies later that year.

2007 brought us the first version of Joost, the online video venture of the Kazaa and Skype co-founders Janus Friis and Niklas Zennstrom, and with it tens of thousands of would-be users frantically searching for invites. This enthusiasm got a little more muted when those users eventually got access to the service, only to discover technical issues and lack of content. Joost also quickly got competition from a bunch of established players: Netflix (s NFLX) launched its Watch Now VOD service in early 2007, and Hulu premiered its website with a closed beta test in the fall of the same year, instantly winning over many skeptics. The BBC also revamped its iPlayer service and launched a web-based Flash version in December.

Other remarkable moments in 2007 included Steve Jobs (s AAPL) getting a new hobby in form of the Apple TV device as well as a foul-mouthed little girl starring in the inaugural video clip for Will Ferrell’s online venture Funny Or Die. Ferrel’s online gig, as well as the launch of Next New Networks, signaled that there was an increasing opportunity for professionally produced online content.

2008 was the year of the XXIX Olympics, held in China and broadcasted all over the world not only on TV, but also online. NBC (s GE) served 75.5 million streams, the BBC had almost 200,000 people tuning in online at the same time, and Chinese P2P companies like PPLive topped it all with 820,000 viewers for the closing ceremony. Hulu officially opened its doors in March and quickly attracted an impressive user base, and Netflix (s NFLX) started to stream to the XBox, while Sony (s SNE) offered movie rentals on the PS3.

Hollywood celebrated a victory against the U.S.-based torrent site TorrentSpy when a court ordered the site to pay $110 million in damages. However, P2P fans had something to celebrate as well when the FCC ordered Comcast (s CMCSK) to stop interfering with its customers’ BitTorrent traffic, something the cableco complied with by the end of the year.

Oh, and 2008 was also an election year, and online video was front and center this time around. New and remarkable was that the most effective commercials actually came from outsiders, such as the Will.I.Am song “Yes We Can” and the corresponding McCain parody “No You Can’t.”

2009 began with a record-shattering online video event when millions tuned in to watch the Obama inauguration online. The inauguration also redefined social video viewing, thanks to Twitter and Facebook. Hulu continued its rise to fame, and is now on track to reach a billion page views. Cable companies started to get uncomfortable about the free competition, and Comcast (s CMCSK) launched its own subscriber-only online TV platform before the end of the year.

The biggest video drama of 2009, however, was the trial against the founders of The Pirate Bay, which ended with a guilty verdict in April, prompting not only increased decentralization of BitTorrent, but also the bombshell announcement that the site would be sold. The buyer announced plans to legitimize The Pirate Bay, but quickly found himself at odds with the law¬† when his company got invested for insider trading and his assets were seized for tax evasion. The sale eventually fell through, and The Pirate Bay has been operating like nothing happened ever since, guaranteeing that we’ll have a lot more juicy pirate drama in the decade to come.

Check here for the first part of this article, and feel free to add anyting we forgot or tell us about your own most memorable online video moments in the comments.

5 Responses to “The Decade in Online Video, Part 2: Time to Upload”

  1. Good recap, but falls short of expectations. Video on PC by itself is not the whole story, and I wonder why the tremendous innovations made in audio and mobile video are not part of your story, for example. Also, nothing much about business models, or live video. Rather, this is a bit of a lazy recall of some events in the last 10 years. Nevertheless a good start.