Designing Media - Chad Hurley

This is the second interview in Chapter 3 in my new book, Designing Media

Chad Hurley, December 2008

I’m looking forward very much to interviewing Chad Hurley on Thursday March 24th, in one of “Bill’s Design Talks” at the Cooper-Hewitt. When I interviewed him for Designing Media, he started with a large cup of Peet’s coffee in his hand, but he spoke so fluently and continuously that I don’t think he had more than one sip of his drink during the entire interview, which lasted over an hour. I promise that this time our interview will be more conversational, giving him a chance to imbibe occasionally during the discussion.

Search for Chad Hurley on YouTube I’m particularly interested in talking to Chad as he is a successful media entrepreneur with a design background, having studied graphic design before he got interested in computers and taught himself some basic HTML and Web design. His first job took him to California in 1999, during the Internet bubble, where he was the sole designer in a start-up encryption company that later became PayPal. He is now CEO and cofounder of YouTube, the biggest provider of videos on the Internet. In October 2006 he sold YouTube to Google for $1.65 billion. YouTube was born when the founders wanted to share some videos from a dinner party with friends in San Francisco in January 2005. Sending the clips around by email was a bust, as the emails kept getting rejected because they were so big. Posting the videos online was a headache too, so Chad and his friends got to work to design something simpler. They noticed that Flickr was having success in connecting people through shared photos and saw a similar opportunity for video. Inexpensive video cameras and editing software were already available, but it was difficult to share video online because of varying formats, large file sizes, lack of standardized media players, and limited bandwidths. They thought this might be a huge opportunity to make new connections. At first they tried to define a set of standards to allow an easy video file sharing experience based on a single type of content, but they soon realized that they would do better to create an open platform and avoid being defined by one specific type of video or site. They solved the file-type challenge by re-encoding everything into Flash; they built an underlying architecture that would scale at a reasonable cost; and they made the video portable so that anyone could embed a link to a YouTube video in HTML and put it on their own Web site or blog.

YouTube Logo

Chad was careful to create a sympathetic design for the YouTube Logo and Web site, avoiding anything that was overproduced, slick, or corporate-looking. He used a simple design because he wanted the brand to be playful but also trustworthy. As with the treadmill video from OK Go, there is a complete lack of self-consciousness in the design and presentation of the YouTube site. Chad succeeded in facilitating connections by carefully designing for simple functionality and presenting YouTube in a form that appears friendly and familiar. Chad sees all of the different forms of moving-image media converging, and foresees a future with people accessing video from the cloud, scaled for delivery to any device, and paid for by some rules around usage—perhaps a per-play rate, a service subscription, or advertising. I find this prediction convincing.