The web analytics site comScore.com reported that there were 30 million videos consumed in December of 2007. This is a staggering number and one that shows that rich media is the wave of the future. With prices going down on digital camcorders, increased ease of use in video editing software, and intuitive video hosting sites spearheaded by YouTube and followed by Yahoo! video, imeem.com, eSnips.com and others, it is increasingly easy to establish a web presence that includes video.
The question is to what extent it is changing social networking and on-line interaction. If you define social networking as the empowerment of users to express themselves and publish information, interact with others, find peers with similar interests and network with peers by forming communities, then here are the areas in which video is making a difference.
Communication: If a picture is worth a thousand words, then how much is a 2 minute video worth? First blogs were the explosion. Then photo blogs complemented text with images. Soon, a blog became a multimedia experience, where a video in many cases said what thousands of words never could. The study by Albert Mehrabian on communication shows that non-verbal communication is essential to understanding what a person is truly trying to convey. Video helps with this.
Learning: There are an astounding number of DIY videos online now. Students of music and instruments in this day and age have teachers all across the globe. I personally have a YouTube channel where I post drumming videos so that my students can watch them and practice at home. A simple 2 minute clip beats any amount of note taking. Video has also contributed immensely to distance learning, and the formation of global social networks around topics of interest.
Entertainment: In the past we would hear a good joke, type it up and email it to friends. Now we can embed the YouTube link into a blog, and then link the entry on our MySpace, FaceBook or Yahoo 360 pages. We can all laugh along to our favorite Saturday Night Live skit or Ellen DeGeneres interview.
Weekend reporting: Activists and enthusiasts with niche interests can now create channels and raise awareness around their issues by creating compelling content that includes video. More and more, people are going to YouTube for documentary information, since it is coming from sources on the ground in places like Darfur, Somalia, Burma, Sri Lanka, and Afghanistan. This threatens the large media channels in a positive way by encouraging them to be more accurate when reporting viewpoints on a story.
Streaming video: Nowadays, webcams and online meetings are ubiquitous. Video capabilities have also had a tremendous effect on social networking and social learning in the enterprise. Large companies are making very good use of this withing their intranets to cut costs on face to face meetings and to increase productivity in geographically separated teams.
All in all, the advent of high availability high capacity broadband coupled with the availability of appliances and software necessary for video have created a trend that is a harbinger of the future.