The prospect of YouTube (and by extension Google) purchasing Twitch (the “world’s leading video platform and community for gamers”) for a reported $1 billion has caused some to sound the anticompetitive alarm. But is this really a case of a giant squashing a promising upstart? Perhaps…but let’s put this into perspective.
Google has over 1+ billion unique visitors per month – Twitch more than 45 million. Yes Twitch is growing and showing a substantial number of streams, but it’s still a niche player (gaming) that barely raises a flag compared to YouTube’s video machine. Maybe this is a preemptive move? Considering that YouTube has weathered a myriad of competitors and shown more staying power than previous social networks (I’m looking at you Friendster, MySpace, Bebo, etc) it would be surprising if YouTube felt threatened by Twitch - unless everyone who watches online video is about to become super e-sport fans – if that happens I apologize to the reader but I must have missed that memo.
Twitch does bring a good live streaming platform, but YouTube is well positioned in the live arena as well; although live video is likely one of the key elements YouTube has identified with Twitch. What if this is about social and the team behind Twitch who brought together a passionate user base around gaming? I know crazy, right? Google having issues with social!? But consider that Google’s Orkut never gained much traction outside select countries (e.g. Brazil) and Google+ hasn’t dethroned Facebook – YouTube users even protested when Google integrated Google+ accounts into the video service. Not to mention Google’s Hangouts didn’t stop Facebook from acquiring WhatsApp for $19 billion.
Twitch might be the seed or nexus for a change in how YouTube approaches social, which could engender a range of community driven video services/channels. All of these could fall under the YouTube umbrella, but each could have their own social groupings – without being forced to link into an all-purpose social account like Google+. To the ardent core users these portals will look and feel very much like an independent community but to the casual observer, peering in through the YouTube portal, they could look like virtual interactive channels.
Yes, Google offers channels and content categorization by genre but it still feels very one-to-one, where users are encouraged to subscribe to a particular contributor. In the end the user might have an eclectic mélange of videos but this doesn’t take online video watching to a new level. I’m not suggesting YouTube needs to alter its exceptionally successful recipe, but rather accentuate it by giving its most passionate users a place to call their own – while offering them a massive user base to help drive viewership.
So long as YouTube doesn’t dissolve Twitch into the massive YouTube fold, I see promise for what the combined minds of Twitch and YouTube could bring to the market. They probably won’t use the “YouTwitch” name as some have humorously penned the potential merged entity, but that’s probably a good thing – for similar reasons why Apple doesn’t like people calling the iPod touch, the iTouch.