Sun, Jun 10, 2007 - Page 11 News List

YouTube may soon unveil local site, co-founder says

HOMEBOY HEROHundreds of Taiwanese yesterday flocked to hear Steve Chen talk about his vision for the popular video site, as well as the move to Web 3.0

By Jessie Ho  /  STAFF REPORTER

YouTube co-founder Steve Chen smiles while delivering a public speech at the Taipei International Convention Center yesterday.

PHOTO: LIAO CHEN-HUEI, TAIPEI TIMES

In his first public speech in Taiwan, popular video-sharing site YouTube co-founder Steve Chen (陳士駿) yesterday unveiled the possibility of a Taiwanese version of YouTube to meet growing local demand.

His speech attracted hundreds of local YouTube fans who were keen to pick the brain of one of the most prominent Internet hotshots.

Born in Taiwan, Chen, 29, moved to the US with his parents when he was eight years old.

Wearing a white shirt and jeans, and sporting short, spiky hair and an earring in both ears, Chen ascribed YouTube's success to video being a cross-cultural communication tool "that can break the language barrier."

Chen created YouTube with his friends Chad Hurley and Jawed Karim to share video clips they had made during a gathering, he recalled.

Launched in February 2005 in Hurley's garage, YouTube has quickly accumulated high traffic volumes and became one of the world's most visited sites.

It was acquired by Internet titan Google Inc last October for US$1.65 billion.

With half of its users living outside the US, YouTube may develop different language versions for the site, including a Mandarin version for Taiwan, to boost its appeal to global users, he said.

Chen delivered the speech at a forum in Taipei which was also attended by other industry leaders, including Chunghwa Telecom Co (中華電信) chairman Hochen Tan (賀陳旦) and Google Taiwan's head of sales and business development Rebecca Kuei (張成秀).

Chen said the Internet was moving from the so-called Web 2.0 era -- user-generated content in a user-oriented environment -- to the Web. 3.0 era, in which users are no longer tied to their PCs, while enjoying much more personalized and individualized content and services on the go.

Going mobile

To follow the trend, YouTube will go mobile by the end of next year, allowing users to share video clips on handsets and mobile devices, he said.

The coming of the Web 3.0 era means more bandwidth, faster transmission speeds, and more content with more diversification to serve increasingly complicated user needs, Hochen said.

To achieve these goals, significant investment in infrastructure is needed, he said. While the nation's largest telecom company tries to build more base stations, it has met constant protests from local residents, he said.

Another obstacle is concerns over the relevant business models, Hochen said. Web 2.0 sites generate income mainly from advertising and subscription, which does not seem to ensure a return on investments in the short term, he said.

Kuei shrugged off the concern, saying that huge advertising revenues were ready to pour into Web 2.0 sites, as they could better target specific customer groups from different budget segments.

The total advertising budget in Taiwan last year was between NT$40 billion (US$1.21 billion) and NT$50 billion, which is more than many public companies' annual revenues, Kuei said.

One challenge the speakers seemed to agree on is piracy. In China, for example, there are already more than 200 video-sharing sites copying YouTube's business model.

But as long as YouTube can remain a destination offering the most content catering to a majority of users, users will stay with the site, Chen said.

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