Forewarning: This is a rant. It may be a little long, but I'll give you a hug if you read it anyway. It may not change anything in life, but I want people to at least understand why this is not a good situation.
YouTube is basically a monopoly at this point. This is a Very Bad Thing, and it's really starting to show. I don't blog as much as I'd like to, so I'm just going to rant on this for a little bit and hope that something comes out of it.
First, why are they a monopoly? Well that's really easy; they have absolutely no competition in the market. Can you name one site that you visit regularly for video content? Does that website allow the creators to make money on their works, have fairly loose restrictions on content and allow even basic community interaction? The only websites that aren't YouTube that I have even heard of which fit these points are porn and that's not really a good thing. There are a bunch of video hosts out there, but none of them want to compete with YouTube. They restrict their area of focus and sit in their niche corner. (NB: Okay, they're not really a monopoly, we don't need their services any more than we need TV. They're like one.)
It's not so much that a YouTube monopoly is bad. If somebody has to dominate the market then I'm glad it's YouTube. They have been fantastic in the past, proven themselves reliable and have an incredible reach. But monopolies aren't just about "I don't like this big company and I want somebody else", they are self harming by nature and it's starting to show a lot over the last year. With some more recent changes made over the last few months, the internet has been in whispers about the future of YouTube and it's starting to become hard to ignore.
The primary thing that YouTube misses right now is competition, and from that they miss progress. Lack of competition is great for becoming big, but having competitors is absolutely vital for staying there. Competition puts two big pressures on a company, without which they will just sit, never progressing forward but always moving back.
The first of these pressures is the strive to progress further than the other side. Why should people use you if the competitors have this fancy thing which you don't? You should add this fancy thing too, and then find something even better to lure people back to you. This cycles forever, and both sides always move forward towards an infinitely better product. YouTube doesn't have this - they don't need it, because they're the only cat in the game. They could create a new fantastic user community system that encourages fanbases and helps with video reach - but why should they? There's no need for it, they already have "the best product". (Note: I'm not saying that they should make this, or that they need to, it's just an example of how they don't need to create big things to lure in users. They already have the users, they don't need more lures.)
The second, and possibly most important, pressure that competition would bring is that it takes away your safety net and really makes you cautious about making bad decisions. It is often argued that YouTube makes no smart decisions, that their website is more buggy than Minecraft, and that things generally just go wrong because of reasons. If any of this were to happen in a true competition state, the users would move to another place and suddenly there'd be a big need to fix whatever went wrong. Without this they have a safety net; they can make any mistake, say "whoops, our bad!" (or not even) and that's that. What are you going to do; move to a different website?
The last point also brings another scary scenario to mind: What if YouTube suddenly goes away? Okay, that's not likely to happen, they bring in lots of money and it'd be insane to get rid of that. How about if they just suddenly decide to take a very large cut of money from all the content producers revenue, as a fee for being on the website? More than they do right now, I mean. They're perfectly allowed to, I mean it's their website! What would the content producers do? They have nowhere else to go, but for a lot of them this is their main source of income; it'll be incredibly harmful to suddenly lose out on that. There are a lot of scary decisions that YouTube are completely capable of making at an instants notice which will negatively impact millions of people, and they have absolutely no reason not to make any of those decisions. This is scary.
I have to wonder why there are no competitors to YouTube. Every site that I know of avoids being a competitor outright by fitting themselves to a niche, and it really makes me think that there's something I'm not seeing. Vimeo is the second best video site that I use on a semi regular basis, but they have very strict guidelines (such as no video games) and a restricted set of features that encourage artsy or creative works, but not really general videos of life and fluffy kitties. The only other even slightly relevant competitors that I know of are for porn; but even that's kinda funny. They're more progressed than YouTube in some areas! But as they're not a direct competitor (and do not wish to be, again) there's no pressure on YouTube to bring in these features or grow past them.
I really hope that if anything happens in 2014, it's that somebody with experience makes a good competitor to YouTube and that it gets embraced by both video lovers and video creators. That's my wish for the year. Even if they don't overtake YouTube, they can at least inspire YouTube to crush them by improving and progressing forwards.