This morning I read that Al Gore’s news network, Current, is bringing four broadband channels online with Yahoo as a partner. I can’t say the announcement interests me all that much, but I do think that Current will make a fascinating case study one day, mainly because it arrived at the same time as YouTube with some of the same aims.
When Current came out, the big news (aside from its not having a set programming schedule) was that it would feature amateur content alongside professionally produced news. YouTube, of course, offers another way for amateurs to present their video to an audience, and has about a thousand times the buzz that Current TV does. The reason for that is simplicity. YouTube is just a big repository that makes it easy for people to upload videos, link to them, embed them in Web pages, and most importantly, play them without installing anything or even making any decisions. That simplicity has made YouTube ubiquitous.
I haven’t watched Current very much. To watch, I have to go sit in front of my TV, choose to turn to that channel instead of watching a Seinfeld rerun, and then hope something that’s interesting to me is on. When it was launched, Current’s web site didn’t offer any of YouTube’s killer features. Unsurprisingly, now it does.
What I find interesting is that Current was so close to being the right thing at the right time without actually getting there. I think that in the end, people will look at this era of Web applications and see that the key to success was building easy to use tools and then giving up control.
I also think that we’ll see more YouTube finding its way onto television. MSNBC already features a video from YouTube pretty much day in the viral video segment on The Most. How long will it be before some channel rolls out a “Best of YouTube” show?