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Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Chad Hurley Interview Notes from 2005

YouTube is marking its fifth anniversary this month.

It felt like a good time to go back to the notes from my October 2005 interview with co-founder Chad Hurley; I'd interviewed him while working on this New York Times story about video-sharing sites, which compared YouTube to other start-ups that helped publish your videos, like Vimeo and

When Hurley and I spoke, the company was still being funded only by its founders; by the end of the year, they'd taken a $3.5 million investment from Sequoia Capital, and by October 2006, Google had acquired YouTube for $1.6 billion.

These are interview notes from my phone conversation with Hurley, lightly cleaned up. It's interesting how determined Hurley was to make the site easy to use for consumers, and to attract up an audience first before introducing advertising.

    Video, we felt, really wasn't being addressed on the Internet.

    Last summer, I was in Italy, and I took some video clips on my cell phone. But with cell phones or still cameras [that could record video], you'd get it onto your computer, and there was no easy way to share it, no services like Ofoto or Shutterfly. [Co-founder] Jawed [Karim] has thousands of clips on his computer.

    There were problems with all the different formats [and whether you had the right plug-ins to view the video in your browser.] We were focused on making a product that had a consistent kind of experience. We started encoding these video files on the fly into Flash video, so they would seamlessly integrate into the Web page.

    We all have parents on the east coast and in the Chicago area, and we wanted to make something that everyone could use, easily.

    We're receiving thousands of public videos per day, and serving up hundreds of thousands of views every day.

    We let people upload files of up to 100 megabytes, which is a very generous amount of space. But we're trying to prevent people from uploading 'Spiderman.'

    [As for people posting copyrighted content to YouTube,] as we expand, we're hoping the community will become more responsible.

    We feel like the video market is in a place where the digital photography market was a few years ago. We think we have a good head start on the rest of the competition. In the next few years, users are going to start adopting video more widely.

    We're purposely trying not to add too much to the site. We want to just empower people with video. With our PayPal experience [all three founders had worked at PayPal previously], we allowed anyone to accept payments, which really empowered them. We want to do the same thing for video, and create a solution for everyone. You don't need to be an advanced videoblogger to know what's going on. We're making a straightforward product that people can use.

    Right now, we're concentrating on the user experience. We feel that's the most important thing — serving customers. But it's clear that we're going to be an advertising-based product. We're not sure what direction we're going to head with that, but we won't do force-fed video commercials in front of a video, like where CNN forces you to watch a 15-second commercial before you see a video clip.

    We've been taking video of the genesis of the company, shooting with digital [still] cameras. They take pretty good movies.

Wonder if that video has ever surfaced....

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