June 27, 2005 2:55 PM PDT

Google Video search ready for playback

Google on Monday launched its new Web-based video search service, which allows people to use keywords to search the company's indexed database of video from Unicef, Greenpeace, CNET Networks and others that have uploaded content since April.

As previously reported, the search engine complements Google's existing site, which lets people search, but not yet play back, the closed-caption text of television shows from PBS, CNN and others that Google has hosted.

Now the video index includes the new content, which is marked by a triangle icon. Users need to download Google Video Viewer from the site. Once they have, they can watch an entire video piece or start viewing at the section that includes their search keywords.

The content ranges from lighthearted video of break dancing or monkeys doing karate to such historical video as the Saddam Hussein statue being yanked down by American soldiers in Iraq. Google representatives declined to provide a more complete list of content providers.

Google is locked in a heated race with Yahoo to provide search for every type of content. Yahoo launched a finalized version of its video search in May.

Google Video is only available in English, and the video viewer works only with Internet Explorer versions 5 and higher and Firefox for Windows. There are no advertisements on the site yet.

The service is another step in the search giant's expansion into more comprehensive media services. Google has confirmed it is working on a payment system but says it will not be a direct competitor to eBay's PayPal online payment system.

However, there is ample speculation that the payment system will enable more broad-based video viewing.

Google is the only search provider that has all the pieces to bring movies on demand via Internet to the masses, said Allen Weiner, an analyst at Gartner. Google will be able to charge per-view or subscription fees, as well as insert ads into the video stream, he said.

"They are actually the first ones in this video search business to basically show us an end-to-end ecosystem," Weiner said.

"I think one of their strategic goals was to create a technology and business model to attract videos higher up in the food chain," such as from movie studios, he said. "It won't be a (lucrative) business until the next level of video comes. This is big stuff."

Peter Chane, senior business product manager for Google Video, declined to comment on the payment program. "We are not making any announcements about that," he said. "However, we are committed to building a system that allows any type of video content to be distributed and monetized through Google."

Yahoo won't be the only company worried about Google's video moves, one blogger said.

"Now, before we start discussing how this represents the Death of Comcast/The Networks/Windows Media Player et al, this is not quite that, but it is the start of something big," John Battelle wrote in his Searchblog. "For one, it's clear this will be integrated with the Google payment program which was revealed to be in process last week."

Battelle also remarked on how Google's video search service will provide free infrastructure for video producers who aren't able to host and stream their own content and help spread an "alternative universe" for video distribution and playback--"one independent of the walled garden business model in which video is currently locked."

The frequently asked questions portion of Google's video site says Google Video will only make content available to users for free now.

However, the option to charge will eventually be available and Google will take a "small revenue share to cover some of our costs" and Google may charge users a fee or take a larger percentage of revenue for popular video that takes up higher bandwidth, which anticipates a payment system.

 

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