The White House takes your questions about the oil spill on YouTube

Tonight at 8 p.m. ET, watch President Obama live on the White House YouTube channel as he addresses the nation about the Gulf oil spill. Then 15 minutes after the remarks, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs will answer your questions. Starting right now, you can submit questions about the disaster on Google Moderator, and vote the best ones to the top. Hear more from Mr. Gibbs:

Already, the conversation about the oil spill on the web has been lively. Earlier this month, thousands of you submitted your ideas on how to clean up the oil spill on YouTube, several of which were aired during the PBS NewsHour. And as more and more Americans are searching on Google to find information about the oil spill and cleanup efforts, we want to help you connect directly with the recovery process.

Now’s your chance to hear the White House’s response to your questions about what many are calling the worst man-made environmental disaster in U.S. history. Submit questions now and vote on the ones you think are most important; then tune in tonight to watch the President’s address live on YouTube.

Posted by Steve Grove

YouTube Play: searching with the Guggenheim for the world’s most creative online video

Do you ever look at a YouTube video and think, “That’s a work of art?” Yep, so do we—and now, so does the Guggenheim.

In five years, YouTube has redefined media culture by changing the way the world creates, distributes and watches video. Online video is exploding not just as a medium, but as an art form, and we’re proud of the originality and innovation that YouTube has fostered among our users. Our community has produced some of the most creative and celebrated works on the Internet, videos that have been viewed by millions of people around the world.

We want to celebrate phenomenal video-makers and recognize the creative potential of the medium. So today we’re collaborating with the Guggenheim Museum to discover the most creative video in the world, and showcase exceptional talent working in the ever-expanding realm of digital media: YouTube Play: A Biennial of Creative Video. This global online initiative is presented in collaboration with HP.

We’re looking for animation, motion graphics, narrative, non-narrative, or documentary work, music videos and entirely new art forms—creations that really challenge the world’s perceptions of what’s possible with video. We want to elevate the debate. This presentation, we hope, will garner some of the finest creative work from every corner of the globe—not only to showcase it on one of the biggest stages online, but also in one of the most iconic artistic venues in the world, the Guggenheim Museum in New York City, and throughout the Guggenheim network of museums in Bilbao, Venice and Berlin.

Participants must submit their videos to YouTube Play to enter. The deadline for submission is July 31, 2010, after which the Guggenheim will assemble a shortlist to be evaluated by an international jury of experts from the worlds of art, design, film and video. Up to 20 videos will be presented at the Guggenheim Museum in New York on October 21, with simultaneous presentations at the Guggenheim museums in Bilbao, Venice and Berlin. The presentations will also be viewable to on the YouTube Play brand channel at

As we did with the YouTube Symphony Orchestra, we hope to build an aspirational place for some of the world’s best artists to showcase their works and talents. For more information about how to enter, go to

Posted by Ed Sanders, Senior Marketing Manager

The power of human rights video

A year ago this weekend, Tehran erupted in protest at the disputed results of Iran’s tenth presidential election. In the severe government crackdown that followed, documented on cameras and uploaded by citizens to YouTube, no moment has been seen more than the death of Neda Agha Soltan, a young musician whose brutal killing by a sniper became the rallying cry for Iran’s opposition Green Movement. The anonymous videos of her death even won the prestigious George Polk prize for journalism last year.

How has video become such an important part of human rights advocacy worldwide?  In the past, we mainly saw these kinds of images in the nightly news or in documentaries – and even then only occasionally. But now that access to the Internet is much more widespread (even in many developing countries), and billions worldwide have access to ever more powerful cellphones and digital cameras, we encounter human rights images much more directly – on YouTube, in Google searches, in Facebook feeds, through links shared on Twitter.

Today the YouTube blog begins a series of posts exploring the issues around human rights and video in partnership with WITNESS, an international human rights organization that supports people using video to document and expose human rights violations. We encourage you to learn more.

YouTube’s Interactive Transcripts

YouTube added a cool feature for videos with closed captions: you can now click on the “transcript” button to expand the entire listing. If you click on a line, YouTube will show the excerpt from the video corresponding to the text. If you use your browser’s find feature, you can even search inside the video. Here’s an example of video that includes a transcript.

YouTube lets you upload a transcript file for a video and it can automatically generate the appropriate timestamps. “YouTube uses experimental speech recognition technology to provide automatic timing for your English transcript. Automatic timing creates a caption file that you can download.”

Watch efforts to stop the oil spill live and submit your ideas

As millions of gallons of oil pour into the Gulf of Mexico from the BP oil leak, ideas for stopping the leak and cleaning up the aftermath are needed. Today BP began their “top kill” procedure, which will attempt to send mud and cement into the well to block the flowing oil. You can watch what’s happening through a live stream of the leak on PBS NewsHour’s YouTube channel, the Google Oil Spill crisis response page or below.

You can submit your ideas on the best way to stop and clean up the oil spill via Google Moderator by 2:00 p.m. PT on Thursday, May 27.

Posted by Meryl Stone, Product Marketing Manager,

WebM: How to Play WebM Video on YouTube

If you want to try WebM, the open video format released by Google, you first need a browser that supports it. For now, WebM is not supported in a stable version of a browser, but you can install a Firefox nightly build or an Opera build. I download Opera 10.54, which is more stable than the nightly builds of Firefox.

After installing the browser, go to YouTube’s HTML5 experiment and click on “join HTML5 beta”. To find videos that are available in the WebM format, use YouTube’s search feature and append &webm=1 to the URL, like this:

Click on a video and you’ll notice that YouTube no longer uses Flash or H.264. There’s even a messages that makes the video player more cluttered: “HTML5 * WEBM”.

YouTube converted a small percentage of videos to WebM. A search for [web] returns 4,610 WebM videos, while millions of other videos aren’t available yet in this format. Check Opera’s blog post for more information about the WebM format, embedding WebM videos and more examples of WebM videos.

YouTube: Likes and Dislikes count in Youtube

When YouTube simplified the user interface and replaced ratings with two buttons for liking or disliking a video, the only information about the popularity of a video was the number of views. To see how many people liked or disliked a video, you had to click on one of the two buttons.

Now you can see if users enjoyed a video without having to rate it: YouTube shows two horizontal bars for the number of likes and dislikes. Some might be worried that visitors could be influenced by the existing ratings, but I think they’re useful and YouTube should find a way to convert the old ratings to the new rating system.

The reason why YouTube dropped the 5 star rating system was that 5 stars dominated ratings. “Seems like when it comes to ratings it’s pretty much all or nothing. Great videos prompt action; anything less prompts indifference. Thus, the ratings system is primarily being used as a seal of approval, not as an editorial indicator of what the community thinks about a video,” mentioned a YouTube blog post from 2009.

Search Unlisted YouTube Videos

YouTube added a very useful feature for those who want to upload videos, but only share them with a limited number of people. Until now, you could make a video private and share it with up to 25 YouTube users.

The new access level is called “unlisted”, which means that only people who know the address of the video can view it. “The video will not appear in any of YouTube’s public spaces, such as search results, your channel, or the Browse page, but the link can be shared with anyone.”

To watch an unlisted video, you don’t need a YouTube account and there’s no limit for the number of people that can watch your videos. Anyone can link to the video, but it won’t be indexed by search engines.

“Even though your video will not appear in any of YouTube’s public spaces, links to the video could still appear elsewhere on the web if anyone who knows the video’s URL shares it. It is therefore up to you to maintain the privacy of your video and the unlisted URL. You can further restrict the video at any time by returning to your account and marking the video as Private,” explains YouTube’s help center.

YouTube interface with New Interface and More Controls

The player recently tested by YouTube is now live for everyone. YouTube’s redesigned player has a lot in common with the new YouTube interface: it’s simpler and more subtle. Controls fade out if you don’t move your mouse, the progress bar is less visible, volume controls are now horizontal. It takes some time to get used to it, but the new player is one of the most brave attempts to minimize complexity in YouTube’s user interface.

Unfortunately, the new video player has too many moving parts and the animation effects could become annoying. Vimeo’s player is even more streamlined and more user-friendly.

Update: The new player is not available for all videos. Here’s an example of video that uses the new player.

YouTube Adds Auto-Captioning for Classic Novels

YouTube’s auto-captioning feature is impressive, even if the results are sometimes hilarious. “Auto-captioning combines some of the speech-to-text algorithms found in Google’s Voice Search to automatically generate video captions when requested by a viewer. The video owner can also download the auto-generated captions, improve them, and upload the new version.”

Converting speech to text is a difficult technological problem, especially if you can’t train the speech recognition software. Here’s a video that illustrates how YouTube’s audio transcription works for novels (also check the original video):

The results are terrible, but you should take into account that auto-captioning works best for speeches. There are many hilarious mistakes: “George Orwell” is recognized as “but it wasn’t”, “Lolita” is converted to “don’t think so”, “the hobbit” is recognized as “the hall”, while “cold day” is converted to “cocaine”.

And if that’s not enough, try to enable auto-captioning for the video embedded above. “This goes on a infinite loop… the transcribe audio function applied to this version transforms entire non-sense phrases into single words,” comments RequiemPipes.

{ Thanks, Richard. }