By Riya Rana:Â
YouTube, a well known name worldwide, is notably the best video sharing site ever. Any video imaginable is on this site, from a range of ‘how to’(s) to live sports matches. It was started back in 2005, by a bunch of former PayPal employees and since then it has grown to become huge —gargantuan to be exact. Over 4 billion videos are viewed a day and the number of unique visitors on YouTube each month is around 800 million. It is also the third most watched site after Facebook and Google. YouTube has helped bridge the gap between providing quality entertainment and education to its users so conveniently at no cost. It hosts music videos, full length movies, college lectures, political rants, comic videos, TV shows, video blogs, beauty and fashion, news, animation, pets and animals videos and so on.
Directly or indirectly, YouTube has helped in creating careers for many. A little boy uploads videos of him singing and playing the guitar, which soon get well-known. Luckily he is discovered by a talent scout. And in a year he has released his first album, and gained millions of ‘Beliebers’. Yes, this is the story of Justin Beiber. In another incident, a homeless man is filmed speaking by a driver passing by, who noticed him carrying a board proclaiming to have a ‘golden voice’. The video soon becomes viral and he receives many job offers and eventually authors a novel. This man is Ted Williams. He even has a Wikipedia page dedicated to him.
Since most of the videos are user generated, there are a plethora of channels, whose owners have created a loyal fan base. These are many who make money off YouTube by regularly uploading home-made videos, intensely popular among the youth. Majority of these video bloggers (informally called YouTubers)Â didn’tÂ start with the aim of monetary benefit; it was a side effect. YouTube became a platform for them to interact with their audience. Many of them post comedy videos, rants, parodies, vlogs about their lives, gaming videos- It’s like a video ecosystem. Names such as Smosh, Nigahiga, and JennaMarbles would strike a chord with many; each of them has over 7 million subscribers and a billion views. A lot of YouTubers feature in each other’s videos and maintain healthy relationships. There is also an annual conference dedicated to celebrating online video culture, called VidCon- “the world’s premier gathering of people who make online video”.
In India, this culture is highly non-existent, even though YouTube is extremely popular. In an online research conducted by Google, it was found that 72% users were below 35. Last year, Google added more than 19,000 full episodes of almost 300 programmes in six different languages, including Gujarati, Hindi, Tamil, Punjabi, Telugu, and Bengali. A search for YouTube stars form India revealed hardly 2 names- Wilbur Sarganaraj and Shradhha Sharma. TheViralFeverVideos is slowly gaining recognition, for posting funny satirical videos. But other than that the scene is pretty bare. Top YouTube channels in India are simply those of media corporations like T-Series, SET India, YRF (Yash Raj Films) having over a million subscribers. Video blogging doesn’t seem to be a trend here. One wonders why we haven’t been able to tap the potential.
Is it because of a reluctance to share their lives/opinions online at the risk of losing anonymity? A country where freedom of expression is nearly zero- 2 girls land up in jail, one for updating a Facebook status and the other for liking it, a comic artist gets arrested for showing the parliament in a bad light, websites were blocked by DoT cause they had articles defaming a certain celebrity (which were true by the way) – it is hard to stand up to such intolerance and narrow-mindedness shown by people.
Or is it because of the bad internet speed? India’s average speed is a low 0.9 mbps, putting India in the 114th position on the basis of average internet speeds. Shockingly over 27% internet users have speed less than 256 kbps.
Also, are we still stuck in the era of watching saans bahu dramas and mindless Bollywood movies? Is any novice type of entertainment simply not our cup of tea?
Whatever might be the reason, it would have been enlightening to watch the creative talent of our nation show on YouTube; fulfilling to the curiosity of observing the lives (and stories) of a rich variety of Indians, through their own eyes. I hope we catch up soon.