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The newly-algorithmed site also gives us a country-specific homepage. So we have “Non stop chanting in India since 1964” coming up on top of the featured list, writes Amitava Sanyal.

india Updated: May 23, 2008 23:08 IST
Amitava Sanyal

Pardon me for playing party-pooper, but I am not adding my two-beat drumroll to the loud noise already being made over the May 7 launch of YouTube India. While Indian blogosphere celebrates by merrily copying the same paras of the press release ad nauseam, I am left scratching my chintzy stubble — yeah, that’s what you get when you spend too many unblinking hours trawling the Tube — and wondering: So what?

Does it really make the lives of us, desi netizens, any better? Let’s look at what’s really in our own goodies basket.

First, let’s consider that India is not among the first nations that GooTube — born of the marriage of the Surveyor Of All It Purveys and YouTube — has chosen for a dedicated country site. We have made it in at Number 20.

Now, it has nothing to do with national pride and all that. But what does it mean to have a country site? Barring five of these 20 country sites, all are run on non-English languages. So it’s a huge draw for someone, say, in Brazil, where Portuguese, the mother tongue, is all-pervasive. This is not to say that because we Indians can “talk Englis, walk Englis, laugh Englis”, we are at a disadvantage. Only, the incremental gain of having a country site is diminished by that bit. In fact, if you look at the ubiquitous pornucopia filtered by in.youtube.com, you’d believe they’d have been better off launching in Malayalam first.

The newly-algorithmed site also gives us a country-specific homepage. So we have “Non stop chanting in India since 1964” coming up on top of the featured list. If you look at the ‘Videos being watched right now’ list, and then quickly shift to, say, the US (global) site, you might come to know how well-knitted the desi netizen is into the global fabric of voyeurism — our choices are quite similar. A country site, after all, is not going to bring about a change in our tastes. If anything, it will let us know what we Indians are watching in numbers at any point. It so happens that as I write, many of us poor sods here seem to be glued to Didier Drogba’s Red Card Offence, while many of our NRI friends in New Jersey are watching Backyard Bikini Patrol. You tell me, except for search engine optimisers and that lone geek on your Net marketing desk, is anyone bothered?

Then come the slew of tie-ups YouTube India announced when it launched, surely with many more to be announced soon. We have the exalted company of Eros Entertainment, Rajshri Films, International Indian Film Academy, Ministry of Tourism, IIT Delhi, NDTV, UTV, Zoom TV, India TV and Krishcricket. Are you jumping with joy yet? If it’s the IIT bit that’s making you drool, you should know that we have had the well-received National Programme on Technology Enhanced Learning, which puts up lectures from all the seven IITs and the Indian Institute of Science. And it has been doing so since last November.

That brings us to the real greatness of GooTube — oops, YouTube. It’s a whole medium, with its own drivers and speedbreakers. On this route, it’s immaterial whether you are burrowing along the mother lode or one of the minor veins — that is, unless you have your own, desi content in letter and in how-it-rings-a-bell. Only when our searches throw up zillions of more Indian videos (better make them in at least 10 of the 22 official languages) will it make that big a difference. Given that a huge majority of us desi netizens continue to connect from public spaces, I’d wager we have a long trip ahead down that road.

And oh, I almost forgot mentioning what’s perhaps subtlest change on the India site: the comma in numbers. We now get our counts in 10,00,000s, rather than in 1000,000s. Now you have to agree: that does make a helluva difference.