Riddle me this: what do you get when you combine a nifty little piece of Flash software, some backend mojo, an army of cellphone-toting teens, and one "Lazy Sunday" clip? The answer is, of course, the largest online video streaming service on the planet, YouTube.
While YouTube is preparing to celebrate just its first birthday, the upstart media company is already changing the face of the web. Modern surfers won't surf long without running into the seemingly ubiquitous YouTube player. Whether it's being used by the politicos pointing to Stephen Colbert's all-out Blitzkrieg on the President or, on the lighter side, by budding young directors, actors, and athletes eager to show off their Ninja Skillz, Light Saber Skillz, or Soccer Skillz, YouTube is quickly becoming the micro-content provider to beat. YouTube's traffic (well over 30 million streams per day) bests its nearest competitor, Yahoo, by 100 percent. Other giants such as Google and AOL lag even further behind.
The secret to YouTube's big success? Thinking small. While other players spent the bulk of their time and effort courting the media giants and their large video catalogs. YouTube courted, well, you. More specifically, YouTube made it ridiculously easy to upload and post videos shot on cell phones, camcorders, etc. This led to an explosion of both their viewership and their “catalog.” It's this grassroots support that's led to the company's phenomenal growth.