You don’t really appreciate something until it is taken away from you. I went on a camping trip recently, my first ever recently. There was no Wi-Fi, no cell phone reception, no heat, and no electricity. On some level, it was refreshing. On another level, it was a little terrifying. And the same is true when it comes to all the online tools and services that we use every day.
YouTube Goes Down
You don’t really notice it’s missing until it’s missing. And that’s exactly what happened, albeit only for a couple of hours, with YouTube in October 2018. In case you missed it, practically everyone in the world lost access to YouTube when the Pakistan Telecommunications Authority attempted to block access to the video streaming site after it was reported that it contained anti-Islamic movies.
Just like the infamous Great Firewall of China, the goal was to block access to YouTube only within the country of Pakistan. But for some inexplicably technical reason beyond my understanding, this block rippled through to about two-thirds of the Internet population around the globe.
The collective online world got in a panic, which led John Green of Vlogbrothers and DFTBA fame to pose the following question on Twitter:
Thought Experiment: YouTube never comes back. What, if anything, are the big and small changes to human life?
— John Green (@johngreen) October 17, 2018
While normal access to regular YouTube videos are generally free (with the exception of exclusive YouTube Red content), some people do pay for YouTube TV. And so, to help make amends for what happened (even though it’s not technically their fault), YouTube offered a one-week credit to YouTube TV subscribers, along with an official apology.
But YouTube TV isn’t really the big concern here. It’s YouTube itself. It was really only down for a couple of hours, but mass hysteria quickly broke out across social media. What would we do if YouTube went down forever? What sort of impact would this have on our digital (and analog) lives?
YouTube and the Online Business
My response to John Green aligned with so many other people who responded to John Green. As much as we think of YouTube as the be-all and end-all of online video, particularly for user-generated content, it wasn’t always that way. Once upon a time, Google Video was a competitor to YouTube, as were Viddler, Dailymotion, and Vimeo.
So, a lot of people said that Vimeo would suddenly be cool again. Maybe.
There are innumerable reasons why Google has risen to such prominence, from its ease of monetization to its incredible search engine. Despite its shortcomings, of which there are many, YouTube is an undeniable powerhouse.
But you do have options. There’s Vimeo, as mentioned, as well as Facebook video and Instagram’s IGTV. They’re all a little different from YouTube, of course.
It’s All Broken
The immediate ramifications of a YouTube disappearing act would be seriously profound though. I have so many blog posts with embedded YouTube videos, both my own and from other creators. If YouTube went down, I’d have a lot of broken embeds… which is exactly what happened with Google Video shut down for good. And there are a lot of YouTubers who would suddenly lose practically the entirety of their audience.
You might know this guy or that gal from YouTube, so you might look them up on Twitter or Facebook to see where they were headed, but you can’t possibly remember all your YouTube channel subscriptions. Those channels would necessarily lose so much of their viewership, no matter where they finally ended up.
And this all goes back to a central point. You should never build your Internet business on rented land. While it is possible to make a good living online without your own website, it’s generally not a good idea, because building on other platforms means it could all disappear in a literal snap.
Everything should funnel back to something you actually own: your own website. Yes, go out there and grow your following on Twitter, your subs on YouTube and your likes on Facebook. That’s how you reach new audiences. But you should always approach these strategies with the mindset that any one of those platforms could vanish overnight. Including YouTube.