YouTube is using Barack Obama's inauguration to showcase its new video downloads. The company this week began offering downloadable videos through its ChangeDotGov channel.
The new feature allows downloading videos to computers and mobile devices rather than streaming a video online. A "Click to download" message is under Obama's weekly radio addresses.
This is the first time YouTube has offered such an option, which gives users H.264 files. These files are standard for video compression, equivalent to MPEG-4, and deliver high-quality video.
A Strategic Move
Until now, users have had to use third-party software to access a video from Google's service, so the new YouTube feature makes downloading easier. Some YouTube videos can be downloaded by clicking on a link on YouTube's site and, because of the high-quality file, can also be seen through other portals, including Apple's iPhone and Apple TV.
Offering downloads of some of its videos is a strategic move for YouTube, which has seen an increase in online streaming in the last year.
In November alone, 146 million people watched videos online, streaming a total of 12 billion video clips, according to comScore. For YouTube, the number of videos streamed increased 17 percent from March 2007 to November 2008.
Adding the new feature to the Web site could be just the step the company needs to make its videos available in a different way
Lawrence Lessig, an Internet law professor at Stanford University's Center for Internet and Society program, first blogged about the feature on his personal blog, saying the move was an important development for YouTube.
Lessig said there have always been hackers to get YouTube videos, but YouTube's step in sharing its videos is "valuable." Asked if he believes this is a one-time offering, Lessig said: ""My expectation is the practice will expand with selected partners."
Lessig also said YouTube has plans to offer the practice more generally, saying his information came from a source at the company.
Timing is Everything
It may be coincidence or a strategic move. Either way, it is expected to be effective.
The video download offering comes after YouTube's parent, Google, said its video service would be shutting down and the company will no longer accept uploaded videos.
"In a few months, we will discontinue support for uploads to Google Video," said Michael Cohen, Google's product manager, on the official Google Video blog. "We've always maintained that Google Video's strength is in the search technology that makes it possible for people to search videos from across the Web, regardless of where they may be hosted."
Google Video once allowed users to download an H.264 clip, the same size YouTube is now offering.