ca.youtube and the geo-restricted web

by Hugh

Michael Geist writes a worrying article about how the web is starting to look more and more like cable.

Until recently, the Internet was precisely the opposite [of cable], offering unlimited user choice, continuous interactivity, and technological capabilities to copy and remix content. That is gradually changing as broadcasters seek to re-assert greater geographic control over their content, ISPs experiment with cable-like models for prioritized content delivery, and some creator groups lobby the Canadian Radio-Television and Telecommunications Commission to adapt Canadian content regulations to the Internet.

one thing that’s starting to happen more and more is geographical blocking:

…NBC and Fox recently unveiled Hulu.com to some critical acclaim, while Comedy Central created a new site for the popular Daily Show that features a complete archive of eight years of programming.

Canadians, alas, are generally locked out of these sites due to licensing restrictions. Canadian broadcasters have been scrambling to buy the Internet rights to U.S. programming, both to protect their local broadcasts and to beef up their online presence. U.S. broadcasters may eventually decide it is more profitable to stream their content on a worldwide basis and to remove longstanding geographic restrictions, however, for the moment they are parceling up the Internet as they would a broadcast destined for multiple cable markets. This geographic bordering extends beyond just blocking streamed content. The new Daily Show site is off-limits for Canadians since the U.S.-based Comedy Central recently took the unprecedented step of redirecting Canadian visitors to the CTV-owned Comedy Network site.

I don’t like the sound of all that. But what’s even *worse* is that cultural groups – in the name of “protecting Canadian culture” are thinking along the same lines. If commercial broadcasters in collusion with ISPs (who sometimes are commercial broadcasters) can shove their content at us, and keep us away from other content, then can’t we make sure that “Canadian culture” (chosen by us) gets precedence too … that is, can’t we start deciding what you watch and read again, all the better to *improve* our bottom line and country?

Uck.

And in other news youtube launches a Canadian version, Youtube.ca (which redirects to ca.Youtube.com)… Oilman has some complaints, for instance about this sentence from their blog: “In developing territory-specific YouTube sites, we wanted to bring YouTube to you, in your language, while making local talent more visible and getting closer to our users around the world.”

The rest of the complaints there seem to miss the point, ie he wants Youtube Canada to be more representative of Canada – bigger flag etc. Why? Why would you want Youtube Canada any more than … oh … say Sympatico Video (shudder). What’s wrong with just leaving the Internet as it is, (mostly) borderless?

[Incidentally, why do Canadians have to be such a bunch of insecure whiners? See the comments on Oilman’s post].

From one end, Youtube.ca doesn’t make much sense, as good content on youtube should win the good old fashioned way, because it gets linked to and people like it. Youtube.ca probably makes it harder to find good stuff, tho maybe all these geo-youtubes will feed into the main youtube.com site? Hope so.

But putting Geist’s article together with Youtube.ca – it’s obvious that they want to do more geographically-targeted advertising. Just like TV!

I already find it annoying that google searches search differently on different computers – depending on, for instance, where you are and what language your browser is set to. I don’t want Google to filter searches “just for me” based on where I am etc… I want to know what’s at the top of the listing.

But now it looks like the rest of the web is shifting in this direction too.