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Wednesday, June 4, 2008

YouTube Adds Video Interaction, Annotations (While Google Video Upload Is Broken)

YouTube now offers video annotations, text bubbles created by the video owner which are overlaid on the video at specific times. To add an annotation to one of your own videos, check your videos listing and hit the “Edit Annotations” button next to one. You will be able to insert three types of annotations; “speech bubbles,” “notes,” and “spotlights.”

Also, you can add a link with each annotation. Those URLs may only point to YouTube though (I wonder if that’s greedy or if there’s a good reason for this). This feature also allows you to create interactive videos – like a video ending with a multiple choice question, leading to different other videos depending on where you click. Combining several of these videos, it would be possible to create a full-featured choose-your-own-adventure game... neat! (Be aware if you want to offer unique options, the work behind such an adventure will grow exponentially – having multiple paths merge again can help here.)

As a visitor, to turn off annotations in a given video like the Magic Card Trick video, click the bottom right arrow and hit the mysterious icon above it. Note that only video owners can add annotations; looking at the annoying results of other video sites which allow anyone to add annotations to a given clip, we might say luckily so.

Google Video upload is broken in the meantime

While Google-owned YouTube is adding features, Google-Video-as-video-host brings new troubles. Ever since the acquisition of YouTube, Google refocused their own old site to be a video search engine, not as much the place to upload your own things... this can be seen, for one thing, by the fact that almost all official Google blogs now post videos to YouTube instead of Google Video, and the closing down of their “best of Google Video” section as part of their Google Video blog. Google likes to promote to “eat your own dog food” in internal campaigns, but having two services in a competing area lets them now choose between different dog food brands.

For instance, just recently I tried to upload something to Google Video because while YouTube has better social features, I kind of prefer the Google Video player for technical reasons. After the video was uploaded using the web interface, I was waiting for it to go live. And waited. And waited. After a while, seeing the video was still not live, I switched to YouTube, and after the upload there, the video was then quickly showing live... whereas Google Video was still working on it, for some reasons (do they have human moderators checking each and every video, and if so, is the same true for YouTube?).

Now, news comes in via blogger Andy Baio that the upload is completely broken. I was able to reproduce this with an MPG video I uploaded (I recently spotted a cat across the street, which made for a good sample video). After the upload, Google’s video status nearly immediately said the video status was Live. Checking the live URL they link to, though, just results in this message: “We’re sorry, but this video may not be available. ... If this video was recently uploaded, it may still be processing. If this video is yours, you can check its status.” And that message won’t go away even after many hours, and that message is also appearing for other users of the service.

Looking at a Google Video Help thread (one of many), people are experiencing the upload problem since the middle of last month. In one thread, a Google support person has now chimed in saying “Our team is looking in to this and we’re hoping to get it fixed soon.”

The Google Video homepage itself also feels kind of deserted – even when there’s clearly developer activity on it, as the constant redesigns show. However, the video picks are sub-optimal. Just recently, the page was filled with Ultimate Fighting Championship videos including the fighter Kimbo... not that there’s anything wrong with that, but that lacked a bit of content diversity (and it was also not triggered by my own searches, as others saw the same). Today, there’s still two Kimbo videos up. And there is not a single video in the “hot videos” section which is hosted by Google Video; in fact, all but one are by Google-owned YouTube.
Below the hot videos is a “Featured on AOL” section which is nothing more but a partner section, and such partner sections don’t necessarily have the interests of the end user in mind... but the interest of the partner. An agreement Google once made with AOL as part of what Google called a “strategic alliance” included “showcasing AOL’s premium video service within Google Video.” Being in Germany, this also means I will get the message “The requested video cannot be displayed in your region" for many of those videos.

Once, Google Video was a destination to find captions of TV shows. Later, it became an opportunity to buy “Digital Rights Managed” videos in the US (and a good example of what may happen to your DRM content when such a service is canceled: the content ceases to exist). Both programs are ended by now, but the video hosting feature – which doubles Google’s efforts in this area if you consider YouTube – still seems to officially persist... even if it’s not working right now.

[Via Waxy.]


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