/ 19 May 2010

YouTube celebrates birthday with South African flavour

YouTube celebrated its fifth birthday at Atlas Studios in Johannesburg on Monday by launching its 23rd localised domain — youtube.co.za. But local competitors, Zoopy.com and MyVideo, don’t seem phased.

Zoopy.com said it was pleased to welcome YouTube South Africa. “The introduction of youtube.co.za is another step forward for social media in South Africa,” said sales director Greg da Silva.

On Monday May 17, YouTube launched in South Africa. They are excited to host a domain which promotes local content. But whether streaming speed for South African audiences will improve is unknown and exactly how local competition will cope is yet to be seen.

CEO of Zoopy Jason Elk told the Mail & Guardian that “there’s space for many players in any online environment — it’s not about YouTube or Zoopy or Vimeo or Flickr or Viddler. It’s about using the combination of services that suit you, when they suit you, to achieve your goals in sharing your media.”

According to managing director for MyVideo Tristan Owen, it was “inevitable” that YouTube would launch a local version. He added that it could only mean “good things” for the local online industry.

“There will always be opportunities outside of YouTube, and the opportunities for integration, alongside differentiation, are just as exciting,” Owen said.

YouTube marketing manager Alon Chen said users will benefit from the new venture because there will be more local relevant content, floating local content on the side of the pages and more exposure for local communities. “But it doesn’t stop you from accessing global content in any way,” Dr Julie Taylor, communications manager for Google, which owns YouTube, insisted.

On whether streaming quality would now be better for South African users, Chen noted that, for now, “Feather Beta [a simplistic/slim-lined version of YouTube] would be a better option for a faster YouTube experience.”

‘Exciting for local users’
Brian Palmer, the new media manager for wildlife documentary company Earth-Touch, was at the launch and uses YouTube to stream wildlife videos. He told the M&G that the local domain would not be of much use to his company. He explained that more than 95% of its viewers are foreigners who are fascinated by wildlife and therefore Earth-Touch would retain usage of the wide-reaching international YouTube.com.

But stand-up comedian Don Packett said the South African site “is very exciting for local users”, and very useful in promoting his “personal brand” for the purpose of posting gigs and publicity.

Paul Cartmel, managing director of software development company New Media Labs, commented that the move was “more an indication of intent — a symbolic move by Google to say that it is indeed interested in South Africa, and more likely the full long tail of Africa in general”.

Christophe Muller, director of YouTube partnerships in Southern and Eastern Europe, Middle East and Africa, told the M&G that another of the company’s goals was “to set the standard in online video delivery, even in places where bandwidth is at a premium”. Using Feather, he claimed, would “help videos load and play faster for those using low-speed internet connections.”

Cartmel affirmed this: “Maybe it isn’t local video streaming start-ups that should be concerned but rather local video rental stores around the country. I bet 90% of local video stores don’t know about their latest competitor.”