Flickr Debuts Online Video

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) -- Yahoo Inc. will begin showing homemade videos on its online photo-sharing site, Flickr, in a long-anticipated move that may be too late to lure most people away from the Internet's dominant video channel, Google Inc.'s YouTube.

Flickr's video technology, to debut late Tuesday, represents the latest example of Yahoo trying to catch up to Google in a crucial battleground.

Yahoo's inability to keep pace with Google in the lucrative online search market caused its profits and stock price to sag during the past two years, which in turn triggered an unsolicited takeover attempt by Microsoft Corp. for more than $40 billion.

While trying to fend off Microsoft, Yahoo has continued to develop and introduce services that the Sunnyvale-based company hopes will help revive its earnings growth.

Unlike Internet search, online video hasn't blossomed into a big moneymaker yet. But it's expected to turn into a marketing magnet as advertisers shift more of their spending from television in pursuit of consumers who are watching more entertainment and news online.

Yahoo already operates one of the Web's largest video platforms, but most of its content is provided by media outlets and other outside professionals.

Flickr's new technology is aimed at amateurs and hobbyists looking for a better way to share short video clips with family and friends.

Only Flickr's "pro" members - those who pay for a $24.95 annual subscription - will be allowed to transfer video clips of up to 90 seconds to the site, but anyone will be able to watch them. A privacy setting will allow videographers to limit access to the clips on Flickr if they want.

The video service will be offered in English and seven other languages: French, German, Italian, Korean, Portuguese, Spanish and traditional Chinese.

Flickr believes its service will offer a more personal touch than the many other Web sites that feature video, and that will help distinguish it. Flickr managers also expect to appeal to people looking to keep their video and pictures on the same site.

"What we are doing is going to meet a huge unmet need in the market," predicted Kakul Srivastava, Flickr's general manager. "Most people aren't showing their personal videos at all right now."

A trio of friends - Chad Hurley, Steve Chen and Jawed Karim - created YouTube partly because they couldn't find a spot on the Internet to share their personal videos. Shortly before YouTube played its first clip in the spring of 2005, the husband-and-wife team of Caterina Fake and Stewart Butterfield sold Flickr to Yahoo for a reported $35 million.

While Flickr continued to focus on photos, YouTube's eclectic mix of professional clips - often illegally posted - and videos of kids goofing off turned the site into a cultural phenomenon.

Since Google bought YouTube for $1.76 billion in late 2006, the video-sharing site has become even more popular despite increased competition from major media companies like NBC Universal and News Corp.

In February, 70 million people in the United States watched 2.9 billion video clips on YouTube, according to the research firm Nielsen Online. News Corp.'s Fox Interactive Video showed about 406 million clips to 21 million people in the United States to rank a distant second. Yahoo was in third place with 245 million clips shown to 21 million people in the United States.

Flickr has built a fiercely loyal following in its own right, a factor that should bolster its expansion into video.

The site attracted a worldwide audience of 42 million in February, up 53 percent from the same time last year, according to comScore Media Metrix. Facebook.com, an online hangout popular among younger Web surfers, had the only larger photo-sharing service with a worldwide audience of 65 million, comScore said.

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