We Sat Around Waiting For Google Video And All We Got Was This?

from the needs-a-bit-of-work-it-appears dept

Remember the good old days when Google used to “wow” people with their new products? AdSense. Gmail. Google Maps. These were products that took what was apparently a mature market and completely changed the game — and did so in a way that made people say “wow.” Last year, we noted that Google seemed to forget the “wow” part when it launched Google Talk, and it appears they may have really misplaced the magic pixie dust with Google Video, if the reports we’re seeing are to be believed. We’ve been discussing our disappointment with Google’s very traditional take on copy protection for Google Video, but we at least expected the the actual Google Video store to be at least somewhat worthwhile. All weekend long we saw bloggers and commentators wondering where it was and when it would launch, while getting increasingly concerned by the delays. Perhaps that made Google rush the product out, but reading through the early reviews, you might think that Google would have been better off telling Robin Williams to skip his trip to Las Vegas because the product clearly isn’t ready for prime time. Sure, it’s “beta.” But just because it’s “beta” doesn’t mean it should be terrible. In fact, part of Google’s charm was that, even though all their products were in beta, many of them still had that wow factor. So, cruising around the early reviews of Google Video — mainly from people who tend to be Google supporters — suggests something has gone horribly, horribly wrong.

  • Davenetics: “Hey, is it my imagination, or is the first really bad product Google has launched?… There are about 9 music videos for sale. Why not be the search engine and not the store? I don’t get it. I know these are the first hours of the service, but I just don’t understand the move.”
  • Brad Hill: “only three episodes of each! The hell? Are their digital converters driven by gerbils? What’s the freakin’ problem? I have no idea where the bottleneck is, but man, I cannot stand meaningless delays…. Lame on CBS; lame on Google; lame on whoever–it’s just lame… Man, this thing is painfully disappointing.”
  • Meanwhile, Gary Price discovers that for all of Larry Page being totally dismissive of the details concerning Google’s copy protection, it really does matter: “I’ve now downloaded the video after paying $.99, installed the player, and still can’t watch the video. Why? It seems that at the moment (2 am EST) I’m unable get my Google account to authenticate so I’m unable to view the show. I keep receiving an error message.”
  • Andrew Goodman over at Traffick.com may have the best analogy concerning what’s happening here, comparing Google’s video efforts to billionaires who invest in sports teams or other “trophy businesses” that have little financial value other than publicity: “people keep expecting Google to do something earth-shatteringly iPod-like in the entertainment biz, completely transforming the way people think about the company. Do they have it in them? Maybe, but the new Google Video Store certainly isn’t it.”

Ouch. Hopefully this is just a botched launch, but there are going to be many pieces to pick up — and hopefully Google can rapidly improve on the offering, while learning from their mistakes on this one.

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Comments on “We Sat Around Waiting For Google Video And All We Got Was This?”

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Mike (profile) says:

Re: It is not a full launch

Please remember it is still a beta according to the website

Yes, we said that. However, two things:

(1) beta with Google doesn’t mean what it means with other companies.
(2) their other products when launched were much more impressive.

We’re not saying it won’t get better. Just that, as a beta, this isn’t up to Google’s usual standards.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: It is not a full launch

GMail has been in ‘Beta’ for close to 2 years now.


How is it that an internet search giant with all the cash and ‘expertise’ of Google still cannot fully scale their webmail service after 1 1/2 years of beta?? Thats freaking embarassing.

Its funny because Gmail hasnt even come out of Beta yet, and is already far surpassed by Yahoo! Mail.

Windows Live Mail Beta is much better then Gmail Beta, IMHO, and even though its been in beta for just a month or two, it no doubt will come out of Beta before Gmail does.

GMail owns search and advertising, which are the crown jewels, but most of their other products are ‘me too’ or were purchased (Google Earth) or purchased and ruined (Dejanews->Google Groups)…

Mahlon (user link) says:

You missed the point - Google just created a new m

I think you missed the point. Google didn’t build a TV station, they built a video marketplace. Just as Google created a market for search advertising where none existed before, they’ve now built a content market where none existed before.

Google primed the pump with some decent content, and the market will take care of the rest.

Content owners large and small will be compensated and their IP will be protected, while content consumers will have a much deeper catalog of quality content than their 200 cable channels or free YouTube videos can provide.

Apply the micropayments system to other content like premium databases or books, and now you’ve unlocked the information that advertising couldn’t.

Mike (profile) says:

Re: Never jump to conclusions

I think you are judging a bit soon, my friend.

The point wasn’t about my conclusions about the service, but seeing all these people who are usually friendly to Google panning the launch. It suggests they didn’t do a very good job launching the service. What they do afterwards shows how they respond — and I certainly hope they improve it. But, as a launch, they didn’t do a very good job.

Cheeky Monkey says:


I like it. I like that Google’s stuff actually works. In Firefox none the less. The video player pulled right up (I think I may have d.l.ed it a while ago?) and the controls were nice. I find it funny, though, that there is already “new” content (like ‘Put on Site’). 1 day of Beta and there’s new stuff! This is a good move for Google, it will definitely take off.

Vasco DaGameboy says:

No Subject Given

I continue to be amazed at the way people bow to the idol of Google as if they can do no wrong. The “wow” factor is definitely missing from the video store and it’s not a great bargain anyway.

One of the (incredibly few) titles for sale on the site is The Brady Bunch. First of all, it’s doubtful there will be a run on the video store to DL episodes of a 35-year-old sitcom, even from the show’s faithful (who probably already have all the episodes on tape or DVD). In the second place, the episodes are $2 a pop and are loaded with copy protection. That’s $50 for 25 episodes when I can buy the complete first season on DVD for $32 and rip it myself, if I so desire.

Anybody who has watched Google Current knows that success in one medium does not automatically mean success in another. I think Google is starting to believe their own press and, as a result, is trying to be all things to all people, which is a big mistake IMO. Google is a great search engine and ad server and the maps and directory are outstanding, but Gmail is just above average, the portal is average at best, and Talk is weak. Now we have an underwhelming video store. Guys, dance with the one what brung you.

discojohnson says:

reason i don't bite

i haven’t purchased any yet, but if the quality is the same as what video.google currently offers, no thanks. i’m paying money for a horribly pixelated video? i’ll go buy the dvd and actually enjoy it, not to mention watch it on my retardo american huge tv, not a considerably smaller 19″ monitor. if i’m dead wrong on the quality, i might think differently, but playing it on my tv without having to play through my pc is a major hit as well.

Charbax (user link) says:

Best VOD service in the world!

> too pricey

Prices are set by each content provider. I think they will soon realize it’s best way to make money to sell the shows at less than 1$ a piece. Minimum price for a video is 5 cents!

> loaded with DRM

It’s my favourite DRM, it’s compatible with DivX DRM which means downloaded videos will play on my DivX Certified networked DVD player, which means I can share my downloaded videos on my local network and play them back on my TV with my KiSS player. Or I can burn them to a disc in the special DivX DRM way. Soon though I am sure content providers will drop the idea of using DRM, they will see that choosing to sell non-DRM will be perfectly profitable.

> can only play in their player

That’s just for now. Google works with DivX Networks so all the shows, even those with DRM can be used on DivX Certified devices, portable or in the living room. That’s what DivX Certification is for, to make sure consumer electronics devices, most of the DivX DVD players, are compatible with DivX DRM. I am sure Google can make a deal to be able to provide the DRM in the other proprietary ipod video and psp formats. It’s just that Google has developped a DRM solution that can be compatible with all other DRMs. Truely a special DRM!

> heavily pixelated

I have just downloaded an NBA match and a full length movie:

The quality is the best in any VOD services I have seen. It is DivX 640×480 resolution. And the Google Player is great at playing the file progressively while it is downloaded. So this is Streaming and Downloading to a specific folder on your computer at the same time.

The point is content providers can choose themselves which file format to upload to Google Video!!! Only the free streaming video is pixelated flash, that is because Google has to limit the used bandwidth for the millions of free streams. Once people pay for bandwidth (be it a few cents per GB!) then Google delivers the FULL quality that the content provider has uploaded, as well as possible re-encodings to lower resolutions for example for ipod/psp. So I tell you, look forward to HiDef On-Demand (my prefered would be 720p 4mbit/s Mpeg4 or h264) for a few cents per GB with Google.

Anonymous Coward says:

No Subject Given

The techdirt article author has some good points. There is nothing “wow” about this service, certainly nothing which seems revolutionary, and that’s the most disappointing thing. Google has a VASTLY overvalued stock at the moment simply because folks are expecting Google to deliver Internet-changing ideas as they have in the past. They aren’t! That’s why this is notable.

TheDude says:

video secrets....

Since I work for a certain codec company whose Mpeg-4 codec is by far the most widely used, I happen to have a little inside info on what may have happened here. Google came to us a year ago and said “we want your help with a video search tool” We said ok and went into negotiations (I don’t know all the details I’m an engineer not a Product Manager). They came out with nothing. Apparently they wanted to much and we wanted too much for it.
They said “fine we’ll do it ourselves” and they went off on their own. I’m pretty sure what you see on that beta is that which they came up with themselves. I happen to know that video.google.com has been valid for at least 3 months. Immediately after that secret launch they came back to us and, we were all afraid here for a while because there were rumors that since we couldn’t reach a deal, they might just buy us instead. But, about 2 months ago, our execs announced that we had just finished the negotiations with them on a several million dollar deal to help them finish google video.

Long story short. This could be beta for a long time, we are just now starting the process of helping them fix up google video. I’ll be surprised if it continues as it is now.

Vasco DaGameboy says:

Re: I don't think so

Everyone’s missing the key point: it’s a marketplace. ANYONE can put up ANY video they want and set a price for it!!! It’s like eBay for Video. Leave the content production, selling and marketing up to the zillions of creative people out there. Who cares about CSI re-runs and music videos?

Yeah, just what the world needs…an online market to buy and sell public access quality content. No one, Google or otherwise, will make enough to spit at by brokering amateur comedy and garage band videos and angry leftist political roundtables, all shot on a digital camcorder.

Eric says:

Re: Re: I don't think so

No one, Google or otherwise, will make enough to spit at by brokering amateur comedy and garage band videos and angry leftist political roundtables, all shot on a digital camcorder.

Just like no one could ever hope to make money blogging? Never underestimate the power of the talented amateur, or independent filmmakers that suddenly have the power to reach a global audience. The best content on Google Video right now is the stuff that was there before today, the clips and amateur videos. Episodes of Survivor and CSI haven’t changed that.

I agree the service as it stands now lacks anything “wow” – but I think it could quickly evolve into something that does have that “wow” without any further input from Google. They simply created a marketplace, and let the content producers go nuts. Want to DRM it until it’s unplayable? Go ahead. Want to charge eleventy billion dollars for it? Go ahead. The marketplace will work its magic.

Now if they’d just do the same thing for audio…

Vasco DaGameboy says:

Re: Re: Re: I don't think so

For every one blogger who has made money at it (through advertising and donations, btw, not through subscribership), there are a million who are posting Jr. High grade poetry, vaction pictures and naive pseudopolitical diatribes that no one aside from their 10th grade classmates reads. So, am I expected to dig through the thousands of pitifully shot, poorly acted videos posted to GV by highschoolers around the globe to find the one or two serious artists who display actual talent?

How many unknown bands have been “discovered” through Kazaa? I can’t think of any, but I’m not a big music guy. Still, I’d wager less than ten have gone from relative obscurity to a point where fans will pay for their music based solely (or largely) upon song swapping.

So now we have Google Video, which is little more than a sophisticated, video-centric version of the original Napster with pay options. The talented amateur or indy filmmaker has may better avenues to pursue than posting randomly on GV.

On top of that, the “top videos” I constantly see are things like some guy lipsynching cheesy songs, a kid cursing his mother out while playing Halo, and people pretending to act out chopsocky ninja movies. That’s the cream of Google Video ATM. Is there ANYONE out there who will pay a buck fifty for this?

As someone above said, most of Google’s enterprises outside searching and ads are me too products. In some cases they have changed the product paradigm (e.g. GMail, Maps), in some cases the result has been underwhelming (Base, Groups, Talk). Google is starting to remind me of a cheesy MLM that started with one good idea, met with great success, then decided to take on the world. The only difference is that Google isn’t asking users to sell to their friends and family.

Just because the Google logo is attached, don’t assume the product is a winner. I’ll believe GV is a success when I see it. Until then, I’ll reserve my opinion.

retiarius laboratories says:

Re: Re: Re:2 I don't think so

perceptive commentary…

it appears (after several months, anyway) google video

never enabled for-sale independent content — does anyone

know if they cancelled this initially-touted feature, for the

above-stated (or other) reasons? i suspect copyright clearance

might have been a major stumbling block.

Nicholas (user link) says:


It’s more of a platform than a store. Think of how great this service could be if there were a searchable text-transcript behind every video. Amazon’s MechanicalTurk program would be a good way of getting that done.

Google isn’t trying to woo the world, they are trying to expand their market while offering a service that many will enjoy.

I spent hours last night watching videos on Google… for one good one, try searching for “Terry Tate” in Google video. I’d be willing to pay 99c for a high-def copy of each of those videos!

If you want to talk about a flop, give Google Base a try.

Anonymous Coward says:


Google is redefining a lot of things, including the definition of “beta”. The following things are considered beta, despite having been available for well over a year (some over two!!):

Google News
Google Groups

and these have been in beta for some time (not sure how long though)

Google Blog Search
Google Talk
Google Scholar

It’s as if Google just keeps things in beta ad infinitum, so if they mess up they can blame it on the product being in beta.

Seriously, do Gmail and Google News still need to be considered beta?

Raptor says:

Re: Regarding Beta

To my knowledge I believe that the definition of Beta means experimental in Google’s eyes. Not only are their ideas innovative in concept but also in design platform. The full Google features are only available in the most recent versions. Ajax was pushed by Gmail and Maps. Flash was redefined by Google video. They have Google suggest that makes use of an “experimental” xhttp request object… That’s just my two cents.

sharon mckee (user link) says:

Video streaming

I’m not surprised at all with this, Let me tell you about a product that will change the way the world will communicate. My Video Talk are streaming (video email,fully customisable), video to ebay/auctions sites/blogs/mobiles/ipods/pdas/websites, the same package does all this. Web based/no downloads/no software/HTML done for you!!!!just copy/paste. and no contracts. Starts from 250mb/per month for $5.95. No Brainer!!!! You cant lose with this

Home Page on website, buy the products online.

Nothing like it out there

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