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YouTube Hits a Billion Views, What's Next?

More than a billion a day. That's the number of page views YouTube is serving on a daily basis, according to CEO and co-founder Chad Hurley.

Actually, he said YouTube is attracting "well over a billion views," which further cements the site's standing as far and away the most-viewed video site. He called the new benchmark a "great moment in our short history and we owe it all to you." The bulk of YouTube content is user-generated.

Hurley made the announcement in a blog post that celebrates the third anniversary of Google's (NASDAQ: GOOG) controversial $1.65 billion purchase of YouTube. While YouTube has seen meteoric growth, it's faced lawsuits from big media companies over the reuse of copyrighted material on the site and has struggled to become profitable. Google has weathered many of the legal issues via technology that scans for copyrighted material and negotiating media deals to mitigate some of the legal actions. A billion dollar copyright-infringement suit by Viacom is still being litigated.

On the revenue side, the search giant is experimenting with various forms of advertising for YouTube videos and ways for users to share in the revenue. It's also reportedly considering adding paid content such as movies.

Hurley pointed to three basic principles that he said YouTube is committed to that have now become "fundamental tenets in the world of online video."

Like its parent company, YouTube has lived by the mantra "Speed matters." While YouTube was criticized early on for the video quality of YouTube posts, that tradeoff let the company offer clips that load and play back quickly, a decision that clearly helped grow its audience. Hurley noted that bandwidth improvements in the past few years have helped video quality.

Hurley also said the "clip culture" that YouTube helped established is here to stay. "Short clips are voraciously consumed and perfect for watching a wide variety of content."

Third, he noted the company's commitment to keeping the YouTube platform open.

"Content creation isn't our business; it's yours," he said. "We wanted to create a place where anyone with a video camera, a computer, and an Internet connection could share their life, art, and voice with the world, and in many cases make a living from doing so."

Challenges ahead

Analyst Ben Bajarin said YouTube's meteoric growth has been less about it as a destination site and more about the ease with which video links are spread virally. "So many people spread those links and now businesses are using YouTube as well and saving on hosting costs," Bajarin, analyst with Creative Strategies, told InternetNews.com.

Bajarin thinks YouTube's size is both an asset and a challenge. "Anytime you have that much stuff, it's going to be hard to sort and find what you're looking for," he said. "If YouTube offered everything that was on Hulu, I'd still go to Hulu because it's quicker to find what I'm looking for there."

He doesn't think anyone can challenge YouTube directly, but more targeted video sites may fragment the market in years to come.

"Time has been good for YouTube," he said. "Its model has evolved over three years and it didn't flop like a lot of people thought it would. Maybe the model will evolve further over the next three years as they develop more contextual ads and profits emerge."

Bajarin said a key for premium advertisers will be the ability to advertise next to premium content. "They don't want to be with silly stuff that impacts their brand," he said.