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Some of the most successful members of the “Web 2.0” generation of consumer internet companies are racing to go global, in a wave of international expansion that echoes the outsized ambitions of the first wave of dotcoms from the US.
YouTube on Tuesday took the wraps off its first nine international sites, the first step in what company executives say is a strategy is intended eventually to make it a local mainstay in dozens of countries around the world and fend off local copy-cats that have sprung up in recent months.
The news comes days after Flickr, the second most popular online photo sharing site in the US, took steps to live up to its claim of being “the eyes of the world” by launching in seven new languages.
Others that acted faster claim to be showing early success in attracting global attention. Since starting out with an international strategy a year ago, the share of MySpace’s audience that comes from outside the US has risen from around 15 to 40 per cent, said Travis Katz, head of international operations.
The overseas push comes as some of the US companies that pioneered new ideas in what has become known as “social media” are already facing entrenched local competition in many countries from local rivals that in many cases have copied their ideas. The boom in social networking, user-generated video sites, blogging and photo-sharing has attracted a global wave of entrepreneurs, much as the earlier rise of dotcoms like Amazon, eBay and Yahoo drew copy-cats around the world.
YouTube, for instance, is facing fierce local language competition in some of the biggest markets in Europe. In France, video upload site Dailymotion drew a slightly bigger audience than YouTube in May, while Germany’s MyVideo nearly equaled YouTube’s audience in that country, according to comScore.
YouTube executives said the company would use its global reach as one of the main weapons in its international expansion. “What we bring to the table is a true global audience,” said Chad Hurley, one of YouTube’s co-founders, and all material uploaded to any of the company’s sites around the world will be available to all viewers. “We’re not filtering out any content,” he added.
The promise to create a single global database could cause legal and cultural tensions as YouTube becomes a bigger local media player in new markets overseas. It has already run into headwinds in recent months in Thailand and Turkey, where videos posted on its site have been accused of breaking local laws. In both cases YouTube removed the offending items to prevent its service being blocked.