YouTube channels McDonalds: “Billions and billions served.”

YouTube logoIn case anyone doubts the significance of YouTube as a media platform … the video sharing service just announced that it is now serving in excess of 2 billion video views per day.

For an entity that’s barely five years old, this statistic is pretty incredible. But it becomes easier to believe when the full extent of YouTube’s video inventory is understood.

In fact, these days nearly 24 hours of video footage is being uploaded to YouTube every minute. That’s more than 34,000 hours of video each day.

Plus, there appears to be no end in sight to the growth of YouTube’s video library, as the rate of uploading has increased by nearly 20% over the past year.

The fact that the vast majority of YouTube videos are hardly worth the time it takes to watch them makes little difference. Far more than Yahoo Video or Hulu, this site has become the “go-to” place for finding everything from old TV commercials to short clips from movies or shows. Or to engage in the guilty pleasure of browsing around and viewing everything from news anchor bloopers to boring college commencement speeches and embarrassingly bad student dance recitals.

Actually, the number of people who visit YouTube to “channel surf” is astonishingly large. It’s become the new pastime that TV watching once was.

And the “social” aspect of YouTube is important as well, as people love to pass links to their favorite videos on to their friends. Or to “broadcast yourself,” as the site’s tagline states. YouTube makes that process easy and effortless, contributing to the burgeoning inventory of new video material.

When Google acquired YouTube in 2009, more than a few industry observers wondered about the rationale behind the purchase and questioned the effectiveness of YouTube’s business model. Looking back one year on, it’s hard to understand what the fuss was all about!

And just yesterday, Google announced ambitious new plans for YouTube. It’s begun converting the entire library of videos to its new WebM video format that incorporates VP8, special codec compression software that facilitates the delivery of smooth, high quality video images.

In yet another swipe at its rivals, Google is offering VP8 royalty-free, in a bid to knock Flash (Adobe) and H.264 (Apple) platforms off their current top perch. Will they be successful? Well, based on history …