August 12, 2022

Social media platforms have changed the way we all interact with each. The internet has basically created an entirely new paradigm for social interaction. For better or worse, the world has changed drastically. One of the upsides, however, is that anyone can now build an audience.

There are no barriers to entry like there used to be no editors, producers, or executives looking at spreadsheets to determine whether something was worth putting out into the world. If someone has a unique voice- a unique product, they can fill their niche and find success. You can take your Intertops casino bonus, and make something out of it- or throw it all out the window. It’s all on you.

One of the best places on the internet for creators is YouTube. The video format is malleable and easily digestible. Just about any and every art form can be found on YouTube. Painting, dioramas, writing, gaming, blacksmithing, woodworking, game development, math- anything and everything that people can find interesting.

YouTube works because it can show the nitty-gritty details in the form of multi-hour long content or quick shorts that just present the highlights. The secret formula that made YouTube explode was its Creators program. In return for uploading content to YouTube, YouTube was willing to split the ad revenue put over the creator’s videos.

Creators not only can profit from their products but from creating in an entertaining way!

The Beginning of the End

The problems began back in 2016. Big tech companies decided at that point that they had to take a greater stand against “hate speech” and “extremism”, and every platform began tightening its terms of service. Suddenly platforms like FaceBook, Twitter, and YouTube, bastions for Freedom of Speech where anyone and everyone could speak their mind, we’re cracking down on whatever they basically didn’t like.

Things really took a turn with the Ad-Pocalypses. If you’re unfamiliar, the adpocalypses were a series of events that generated enough controversy to make advertisers scared and pull their adverts from YouTube. This hurts content creators because, with fewer advertisements, YouTube generates less revenue, and creators earn even less than they already do.

The first major adpocalypse can be traced to early 2017, when YouTube’s biggest channel at the time, Pewdiepie, made jokes deemed “controversial”, such as when he reacted to two Indian guys (that he paid) to make and read out a sign that said “Death to Jews”. As a result, the US government, Coka-Cola, Dr. Pepper, Johnson & Johnson, and numerous other advertisers began pulling their ads from YouTube.

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The second and third adpocalypses were both connected to controversies regarding child-appropriate content on the site. Technically, children under the age of 13 aren’t allowed to use websites like YouTube (due to the COPPA act), and, more relevantly, companies that make products for children didn’t want to be associated with “adult” content.

Since the companies were thinking with the television advertisement mentality, “adult” content included anything from suggestive content to swear words to violent video games. It should be mentioned that during this period, some genuinely disturbing content on the platform was unearthed- like bizarrely sexual videos geared towards children (if you’re interested in going down the rabbit hole, look up some of the infamous Spiderman/Elsa stuff).

The fourth adpocalypse, however, was almost entirely political. Carlos Maza, who worked at Vox at the time, contacted YouTube and demanded they stamp out “hate speech” after conservative comedian and talk show host Steven Crowder made fun of him by calling him, and I quote, a “lispy queer”.

As a result, YouTube further tightened its terms of service, which resulted in stripping monetization from who-knows-how-many accounts and terminating others. Significantly, several conservative channels (including Crowder, Black Pidgeon Speaks, and The Golden One) had their monetization stripped. Many accused YouTube of anti-conservative bias.

The War with the Algorithm

The bottom line is that it’s harder than ever to find success on YouTube. Trying to build an audience now is immensely challenging. Getting monetized and staying monetized is an uphill battle as the rules shift and change at the seemingly arbitrary whim of YouTube itself.

Creators have to be immensely careful to avoid copyrighted material (especially music), even when they have a completely legal right to use said material under fair-use laws or licensing agreements. Record companies, in particular, are notorious for flagging content, which causes the YouTuber to immediately lose monetization, and when the YouTuber pushes back, YouTube gives the Record company thirty days to give a court notice if they want to take it further. Otherwise, the content creator regains his monetization.

The problem is that the vast majority of views happen within the first day of uploading- which means that even a temporary demonetization can significantly affect a creator’s income. Plus, the anxiety and stress-inducing algorithm-chasing that YouTubers have to constantly go through is a major source of creative brain drain and burnout.

The long and short of it is, there has been a growing feeling of growing resentment on the platform that YouTube doesn’t seem to care for its creators. What used to be a free and open platform for everyone has become increasingly difficult to work on.

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Half the items on the trending page seem completely unconnected to their view counts, and YouTube seems to give priority in their algorithms to “mainstream” channels like Seth Meyers, CNN, Stephen Colbert, VEVO, and the Comedy network. Creators feel that YouTube is trying to gain favor from these media giants instead of the people that made (and are still making!) YouTube what it is today.

Why Doesn’t YouTube have Competition?

The short answer is: Because it’s haaarrrrrd.

Streaming video, as it turns out, is a very expensive service. Videos 1080p resolution can take up tens of gigabytes of space, and 4k can takes up hundreds. Services like Netflix use servers across the entire planet, and they only need to host what they themselves upload to their own service. YouTube, by contrast, has over 31 million unique users, all capable of uploading content, with tens of thousands who regularly do.

According to a quick google search, approximately 30,000 hours of content is uploaded to YouTube every hour. On top of that, while videos with low view counts are only stored local to where the video was uploaded, videos that go viral / have large view counts get copied to multiple server farms across the globe for faster streaming.

In total, YouTube has approximately 10-20 exabytes of data (that’s a 10 followed by nineteen zeros) or 10 sextillion GB.

That’s a lot of flippin’ cat videos.

Hosting that much data, making it accessible globally, etcetera, etcetera, requires an insanely expensive infrastructure expenditure. However, that doesn’t mean that people haven’t tried. Sites like Rumble, Bitchute, and Gab (sort of) are all direct competitors to YouTube (although that last one is more of a competitor to FaceBook than YouTube per se).

However, all three of these share the same problem- a problem that other alt-tech sites like Parler, Gettr, and Locals all share: They’re too political. Each of them are now associated with the “alt-right”, whether justly or no. That connotation, whether real or not, keeps apolitical users away.

The vast majority of people who use YouTube are not weirdos like me and don’t obsessively follow politics. If they go to a site like Gab and see a bunch of neo-nazi posts, they’re not going to say, “To each their own, they have the right to say what they like no matter how despicable I find it.” No, instead, they’re going to say, “Ew, I don’t want to expose myself to this stuff… I’ll go back to YouTube where it’s cleaner.”

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The lack of normal users means that none of the major content creators have an audience waiting for them should they decide to jump ship. So long as that connotation exists, Jimmy Gamer Joe has no reason to jump ship and potentially ruin their own brand, regardless of what their own political beliefs might actually be.

What YouTube needs is a competitor that has no association with a particular political group that markets itself as a place for the little guy. They can’t even label themselves as a “Free Speech Site” because even being on the side of the first amendment makes you politically “right-wing” in the eyes of twitter-lunatics. Such a platform would need to grab and siphon talent from YouTube and present them with an option more palatable than staying.

Ideally, by promising more consistent revenue and more support towards the community. It needs to grab someone like Pewdiepie or Markiplier or Mark Rover or any number of other big channels and convince them- if not to abandon the platform completely, then to at least upload adjacently alongside YouTube while they get their new audience built up.

Funnily enough, while researching for this article, one of the platforms I came across was “Odysee”. I had heard of it before, but I hadn’t actually visited it until I sat down to write. I actually used it as an example above somewhere before I realized that I should probably verify what I was saying. To my surprise, Odysee DOES have a lot of the features I think a real competitor to YouTube needs.

Unlike Rumble or Bitchute, Odysee’s front page doesn’t bombard you with political content, and right on the side are tabs for exploring various topics from gaming to technology to music and art. Digging into its features, Odysee apparently has the ability to side-load content from YouTube- making it easy for established YouTubers to easily upload to Odysee without it being a tedious process.

Will Odysee ever beat out YouTube? It’s hard to say at this point. However, compared to the competition, it’s the one I would bet on. Regardless, its existence shows that there is a calling for an apolitical platform that just lets creators create without imposing insane, unachievable working standards or an agenda. YouTube itself has grown too big for its britches, and it’s high time that someone knock it down a peg or two.

For everyone’s sake.