It’s not the technology, it’s the experience. It’s simple sharing. It’s easy embedding. It’s reliable viewing. It’s “when I share a YouTube video with someone I know they’re going to be able to see it no matter which browser, computer, or OS they have.” That’s what makes YouTube YouTube.
But you won’t hear that from AOL or Microsoft — two companies that were considered YouTube suitors before Google swept in and closed the deal.
What you’ll hear from them are lines like this:
“The AOL guys would’ve loved to have got YouTube. We looked but decided AOL has not only better technology but it’s also in-house,” said Dick Parsons, CEO of Time Warner, which owns AOL.” (source)
“Microsoft evaluated acquiring this type of technology several months ago, and decided to build our own offering, focused on driving better customer and advertiser experiences through integration with Microsoft assets and services that reach an estimated global audience of 465 million consumers,” said spokeswoman Whitney Burk in a statement. “We are excited about the potential we are seeing in the beta of Soapbox on MSN and believe building our own solution is a more cost-effective way to compete in this new space.” (source)
Both AOL and Microsoft take the “we have better tech in-house” stand. That’s why YouTube wasn’t attractive.
It wasn’t that YouTube was overvalued or YouTube has significant legal battles ahead that AOL and Microsoft didn’t want to absorb. It was that YouTube’s technology wasn’t up to snuff.
Never mind that YouTube was streaming millions of videos a day and never seemed to be down. Never mind that YouTube is the leading video viewing/sharing site by a wide margin. Never mind that the public likes YouTube. Never mind that YouTube movies are embedded with Flash which everyone already has. Never mind that nearly every email I’ve gotten from anyone in the past year saying “hey, check out this video” lead to a YouTube video. Never mind that my parents actually know what YouTube is but have never heard of AOLs “technology” or Microsoft’s Soapbox. Never mind any of that. Just mind the technology.
Can AOL and Microsoft beat YouTube down the road? Anything is possible, but they’re making it awful hard on themselves if they think technology is what’s going to win this race. Technology rarely wins the race — experience and execution does. YouTube nailed that. Time will tell if they nailed a few coffins at the same time.