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Because we can

June 15, 2006

"When we say we want all the world’s video, we really do want all the world’s video." So says Google's Hunter Walk in an interview with Beet TV. Beet's Andy Plesser, noting that YouTube and Yahoo limit video uploads to 100 megabytes, comments: "We were stunned to hear from Hunter that Google Video DOES NOT LIMIT THE LENGTH OF FILE SIZE ... The implications of this are enormous. It boggles the mind to consider the amount of storage needed for such an undertaking." Not only that, but Google encourages people to upload video in the highest quality (ie, largest size) possible: "The higher the quality of the video you can provide to Google Video, the better your video will look on our site!"

Now even granting that we'd all like to see more of such Top 100 Google videos as Fart on TV, Caged & Feathered, I'm the Juggernaut Bitch and the #1 Girl Caught Cheating, the storage and bandwidth requirements for handling unlimited amounts of video do indeed boggle the mind. It certainly explains that new Columbia River powerplant (maybe "dataplant" is a better term).

But to what end? Can somebody tell me, with a straight face, the economic, social or cultural justification for "wanting all the world's video"? Sure, Google and YouTube are encouraging people to invest huge amounts of time in producing and consuming silly fart and tickle videos, but how many silly fart and tickle videos does the world really need? A petabyte worth? A yottabyte? Whatever the ideal amount is, I think we're probably nearly there - though I suppose once you push the price of silly fart and tickle videos to zero, demand scales to infinity.

No, the only explanation I can see is some newfangled form of megalomania, fed by a messianic ideology, a mountain of cash and too little sleep.

UPDATE: Ian Betteridge says it's all to feed the AI. And he's probably right.

UPDATE 2: Chris Gulker guesstimates that Google is currently serving 2,000 users per server. Anybody have a sense of what effect storing, searching and streaming all the world's video would have on the company's computing requirements?


The same comment would then apply to blogging. Do we really need every single person's diary and silly rantings in the web ? You could also say that this is really a big waste of storage space.
You decided to point to silly videos but there are also useful videos in there (scientific presentations for example). They make it available and we get what we want, just they like blogs.

Posted by: pedrobeltrao at June 15, 2006 01:06 PM

My theory is that the AI brain has *already* taken over at Google. People are just obeying to its demands for information in any shape or form. It's gonna mine all this video contents to find out everything about us (like, you know, who farts in public). Of course when it's done, the main risk is that the AI brain decides to exterminate mankind, except for a few servants who shall keep feeding it. It won't consider us as an intelligent lifeform worthy of survival.

Posted by: Alain Rogister at June 15, 2006 01:09 PM


as someone interested in bioinformatics/systems biology you probably know what the signal-to-noise-ratio is.

and this ratio is worsening now, minute by minute, as loads of boulevard-type, non-reviewed, non-edited trash is being multiplied over and over plugging the internet with information goo (or if you prefer bio-polemics: with tumor cells).

only peer-reviewed closely knit communities (scientific, business, arts or political) who rely on personal trust, accountability and reliable, critical, and yet transparent feedback loops are currently able to stem the tide of trash flooding every last square inch of the info sphere.

of course, the creation of all this noise is big business for those corporations who control either the bandwidth (encouraging everyone to buy broadband) or the corporate-owned filters (the so-called search engines aka g..gle and its peers).

How come tagging and "single item voting" as the weakests forms of participation are encouraged while the aggregation and ranking algorithms which feed the user interface remain proprietary?

so off you go! generate as much noise as you can, collaborate to make the corporate-owned non-public, non-open filters more important than ever! (the vatican never even dreamed of the type of all-encompassing power that web2.0 enthusiasts are prepared to hand over to g...le.)

p.s. wikipedia and similar projects are indeed different under the condition that they provide open, peer-reviewed feedback and thus transparent collaborative filtering.

Posted by: deconrockz at June 15, 2006 01:42 PM

Given their roots and stated predilections, I would guess the explanation is that they are working on video search. Not just keyword indexing; graphic recognition and search of live images. If you were looking to do such a thing, it might be useful to have a relatively huge base of samples to build your algorithms from.

May sound nuts, but it's already being done with audio, and it sounds like the sort of grand scope that Google would be interested in.

Posted by: Scott Wilson at June 15, 2006 03:00 PM

If you want to upload video or use any of Google's new services, you are automatically signed up for personalized search. As I explained in the "powerplant" comments, personalized search adds a new layer of natural selection on top of the pagerank algorithm that has evolved into the web's most usable search engine over the span of many years. This new layer eliminates the need for search engine competition from other companies because it allows for a strength-based reduction process within the Google system. In essence, each user will create his or her own search algorithm based on automatically recorded preferences and each selection's apparent benefit. Each personalized search will be one neuron in the Google brain that is strengthened or diminished based on its interaction and agreement or conflict with the pagerank of websites and userrank of proximate contributors. Google recognizes that choice is essential for growth and is enabling that freedom without the user having to look beyond its borders.

The same process of parallel neural processing is applied to Google Videos. Videorank is determined by usability, affecting storage priority and compression.

Posted by: Zephram Stark at June 15, 2006 03:06 PM

Presumably at some point, people will have personlized google masks implanted into our bodies. The masks will capture all the events of our life real-time and automatically upload them along with our responses (pleasure, pain, boredom etc.) into the google dataplant. In return, the google advertising algorithm will beam information into the pleasure mask which will tickle our 'pleasure brain centers' and make us do the advertisers bidding. Oh what joy! Forget real world controlling their digital avatars, the digital brain will control the real world. Google! the new opiate of the masses.

Posted by: Naveen Palli at June 16, 2006 06:40 PM

Jeez, Nick, you always have the best vids! Where do you find the time? ;-)

Posted by: nzlemming at June 22, 2006 05:48 PM

nzlemming, As a tech blogger, I feel it's my duty to stay abreast of all the latest user-generated content. Now, excuse me, while I head out for a night of MySpace slumming. Nick

Posted by: Nick Carr at June 22, 2006 11:02 PM

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