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The sites’ content is also similar; at the moment, they all dip into the same vast, heterogeneous pool of amateur, semi-professional, and professional video, from drunken sophomores lip-synching Madonna to Grand Canyon vacation videos to movie trailers and finely crafted film-festival pics. As of this writing, for instance, the top-ranked video on Buzznet was from a concert by the Finnish rock band Apocalyptica; at Yahoo Video, a music video from Reggaeton star Don Omar; and at ClipShack, Episode 4 in a homemade comedy series called “Dustin’s Play Time.”

“It’s a bit like the Wild West,” says Zajac, who led the relaunch of Yahoo’s video-sharing site on May 31. “There is a lot of video from fragmented sources. The quality is all over the map. It’s hard to find stuff that’s good. All we’re trying to create is a service that, for now, makes sense as a place for people to start to experience video on the Web.”

Most video-sharing sites share this catch-all approach, guided not by a clear understanding of what types of videos will prove most popular among Internet users, but by consumers’ own apparent enthusiasm for digitally documenting their lives – and spending voyeuristic hours watching other people’s.

But just as photo-sharing sites have differentiated over time, catering to specific audiences with different sets of features, the video-sharing sites are sure to take on their own individual character. This likely won’t happen along genre lines – after all, there are no photo-sharing sites devoted solely to pictures of flowers or rodeos. Rather, it will happen as the video sites find their core audiences. A video equivalent of Flickr, for example, would appeal to geekier users by providing unlimited storage space for a premium subscription fee, or programming interfaces so that content uploaded to one site could also appear on others, such as blogs. Serious video filmmakers, meanwhile, might gravitate to sites that offer members personal “channels” showcasing their own work (a feature added to YouTube last week). Lower-end sites would likely remain free and advertising supported, relying solely on the “funniest home videos” flavor of much amateur content to keep traffic flowing.

But, until then, video-sharing sites are more like fire hoses than drinking fountains. “The world’s changing,” says Anthony Batt, CEO of Buzznet, which markets itself primarily as a community gallery for member videos of pop-culture events such as rock concerts. “We are giving these people phones and cameras to record with and the Web tools to infinitely broadcast what they record. We are in a sea change – and helping that to occur is the exciting thing about this. We want people to take photos of their lives and their surroundings and share it immediately.”

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