Whose Tube? Our Tube? YouTube!

The new “must-see TV” is now a double click away and is bringing in people in droves.

Adri Mehra

Can you believe this? The Crocodile Hunter was killed by – of all things – a spiny little fish! In the comic book world, this would be akin to Batman meeting his demise in a battle with one of Lewis Carroll’s church mice. Sigh.

And since this whole house of cards transpired in front of a camera, there is little doubt that the video of our beloved Aussie’s grisly death will quickly wind its way to the increasingly tasteless slop-monger Web portal known as YouTube.com.

And yet as YouTube continues to attract the lowest common denominator of file sharers, they also continue to stockpile a fascinating array of found clips, videos and images all while earning the ire and admiration alike of a download- hungry online populace.

Still just a year and a half old, YouTube has rapidly climbed into the upper echelon of Web-hit rankings with its staggering searchable vault of more than 100 million files – and growing, at a rate of 60,000 files a day.

Only the usual suspects – search engines and networks such as Google, MySpace and Yahoo, and news-based sites like MSN and CNN – receive more traffic than YouTube.

And now, of course, all eyes are on YouTube going public with its company stock. On the heels of successful initial public offerings from torch-bearing online behemoths such as Yahoo and Google, YouTube has already cherry-picked Yahoo treasurer Gideo Yu as its first chief financial officer, and is poised to make more moves soon.

What keeps people coming back – in droves – to YouTube.com? Missed your favorite band on Leno last night? Don’t worry, it’s already been posted by a fellow die-hard on YouTube. Forgot to read that early Dickens novel for your lit class? Never fear – there’s probably a clip from the BBC adaptation, or at least an attempt at a student film, plastered up on YouTube.

And after more than a decade of surfing the Net, it’s a long-established given that you have to wade through reams of utter crapola to get to what you want anywhere online. YouTube is no exception. For every gem of an early-MTV Hall and Oates video or un-PC, off-camera rant from your favorite Republican senator, there are 10 pages of search results featuring such cultural winners as vomiting pets and flame-enhanced flatulence.

Still, my advice to all of y’all is to get yer kicks before the whole outhouse goes up in flames. We’ve seen this one-act before – remember KaZaa and Napster? – and it never ends very pretty.

YouTube is still a small operation – the staff numbers around 50 lil’ geeksters – and it has no centralized model with which to censor copyright-infringing content.

All of this adds up to YouTube headed down the tubes in a hot minute if administrative types like Yu don’t get on the saddle.

The site fought off NBC Universal by brokering a “strategic partnership” allowing the television giant to showcase clips primetime programs in exchange for dropping charges. But that’s only one slice of the empire out of the pan. Let’s hope YouTube stays true to its namesake, and never becomes “WhoTube?”

Adri Mehra welcomes comments at [email protected]