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YouTube’s Missing Link

I haven’t kept up with all the commentary on the Google/YouTube deal, so I’m posting blind. What’s worse, I’m merely posting an endorsement of a comment by someone else — a student in my IP Seminar.

The comment, which I think gets something important about the deal, is basically this:

YouTube isn’t about YouTube content. It isn’t about YouTube technology. For lack of a better analogy, YouTube is about a massive, dynamic, evanescent customer list. Google has “bought” a group of people — the population of people that decided that YouTube is a cool place to find stuff and to post stuff, and a group of people that will disappear like the wind if they sense that Google is doing anything to screen or limit any of what they think they should find at YouTube.

If that’s right, then how in the world is this group of people worth more than a billion dollars — when almost anything that conventional wisdom believes will happen to YouTube (that is, the assumption that Google has to clamp down on copyright infringement) means that this group is going to start to lose what little integrity it has now, and may, in the not so distant future, fade away?

I haven’t had time to figure out what this means. But something else, and something big, is going on.