Google Localizes Youtube for European Audiences

Google Inc. launched versions of its video sharing service Youtube in French and other languages on Tuesday. Localized versions now exist for Brazil, France, Ireland, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, Poland, Spain, the U.K. and the U.S.

The French site at http://www.youtube.fr/ or http://fr.youtube.com/ features titles and help pages in French, and the top video is a welcome message from French rapper Kamini, who began promoting his brand of rural rap through Youtube's English-language site last November with a video clip entitled "Marly-Gomont".

For now, the international sites draw on the same database of videos and rankings as the U.S. site, but in time Google plans to add country-specific video rankings and comments, it said Tuesday. For now, the French site displays French-language content and rankings previously posted to the main site.

"The big thing for YouTube in 2007 is access," YouTube Inc. founder Chad Hurley said at a Google news conference in Paris on Tuesday. Hurley and his co-founders sold YouTube to Google last October for US$1.65 billion.

"We have a goal to put YouTube on every screen, and we mean on mobile devices and in the living room. Right now it's restricted to your browser, to your PC, and we want you to be able to take that same content and bring it to your mobile phone and be able to watch it in your living room," Hurley said.

Plans to reach those other screens are already under way: on May 30, Apple Inc. announced it will put YouTube in the living room by building support for it into a future software update for its AppleTV set-top box, while on Saturday YouTube launched a version of its site for mobile phones. However, it will require partnerships with mobile phone operators, and months or even years of work, before YouTube Mobile offers the same experience as the Web site offers PC users today, Hurley said.

Over half of YouTube's traffic today comes from outside the U.S., Hurley said, and delivering localized versions of YouTube is a way for the company to capitalize on that.

However, expanding internationally may expose YouTube to the kinds of censorship issues that Google has been experiencing in China.

"I think a platform such as YouTube has to respect local laws and customs," YouTube founder Chad Hurley, adding that the company is developing ways to enable the fine-grained control of content required to do that.

In preparation for the launch of the new sites, Youtube has already signed content partnerships with the British Broadcasting Corp.; French 24-hour news channel France 24; Spain's Antena 3 and Cuatro TV; Radio e Televisco de Portugal; the Dutch VPRO and NPO; European football clubs such as Chelsea FC, AC Milan, Barcelona FC and Real Madrid, and nonprofit organizations such as Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth and Midicins du Monde, said Google.

In the past, Google's cultural initiatives such as Google Book Search have faced criticism -- from the head of the French National Library, Jean-Nokl Jeanneney, among others -- for the way in which they encourage the dominance of U.S. values by making it easier to find cultural resources in English than in other languages. Linking with producers of local cultural content and making it easier to search that material may improve Google's image in some countries.

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