YouTube introduces video download feature

Change may be headed for YouTube as well as Washington D.C.

Change may be headed for YouTube as well as Washington D.C. President Barack Obama's YouTube channel, ChangeDotGov, has a feature that no other videos on YouTube have: you can actually download the video clip. Google began experimenting with this new feature late last week, and now, it seems that video download will spread to many other YouTube channels.

In Obama's latest Weekly Address (January 17, 2009) a 'Click to download' link is situated under the YouTube video toolbar and allows users to download the file in high-quality MPEG4 format. Though not available from the channel's main page or playlists, all videos on the ChangeDotGov YouTube channel now give the downloading option. The MPEG4 (H.264) file can then be easily added to iTunes and your iPod/iPhone.

For a while now, various tools to help you download videos from YouTube were available, but this implied having a separate player that would be able to play .flv files - not a very common multimedia format. And of course, after some additional conversion work, you could put the video on your iPod or other music/video player. Not quite as easy as it sounds - but things are changing now.

The YouTube video download feature was first mentioned on Lawrence Lessig's blog, who is a Stanford University Law Professor and also an adviser to Obama. He says, "YouTube is rolling this out slowly, initially with content that aspires to be consistent with principles of open government." Lessig also added that YouTube video download will "be offered more generally." How 'generally' though, it's not yet known.

But this leaves enough space for speculation. Some say YouTube's video download capability will be limited to user-generated videos only. On the other hand, it's likely this new feature will expand across YouTube, though disabled by default - in order to prevent copyrighted content from being downloaded, as ArsTechnica mentions. But most probably, it will be the users who will decide in the end whether they want to allow viewers to download their content.

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