YouTube adds backlinks

Last week YouTube released a new player along with a few other features across the site (for some reason they have yet to blog about these changes). Personally I liked the look and feel of their old player more, but that is beside the point: the new interface exposes the most popular off-site links to the given video (a.k.a. backlinks), allowing users to discover who is really driving viewership. From my brief interaction, it appears the video must be embedded on the source page, and not simply a text link. Here’s the backlinks for their most popular video of all time (Evolution of Dance):

YouTube backlinks
YouTube backlinks

What you find inside this little hidden window is usually not startling: MySpace profiles,, and so on. But in some cases the backlinks are more interesting. Take for instance the popular Treadmills video by Ok Go is apparently the most downloaded music video of all time. In YouTube’s backlinks we find the largest driver of traffic to be a weblog named fugufish, with over 200k links. Who is this mysterious blogger? Were they the first people to identify the video, or simply a maven that brought it to a larger audience? For a researcher of diffusion (such as myself), these links are fascinating, and start allowing us to understand how giant internet memes tend to spread.

This move also continues to solidify YouTube’s place in the ever-evolving media ecology of the web. It solidifies the video site as a platform integrated with other media providers. You can think of this feature as a sort of traffic-share with those sites that drive the most viewership; just as AdSense shares Google’s ad revenue with publishers who use the ads, YouTube will now reward bloggers with traffic for using YouTube as their video platform. YouTube was a pioneer in the platform approach to building an audience, and they continue to innovate.

10 thoughts on “YouTube adds backlinks

  1. I would probably classify myself as someone that just got incredibly lucky. Watching the traffic come to my site was a truly fascinating experience. It began shortly after I posted on Digg. After that, the video seemed to spread largely by e-mail and instant messaging, first to the US and England, then to Australia, and then the rest of the world. Today, my largest concentration of visitors to the site comes from Budapest. I’m saying e-mail and IM as the large majority of hits to my site were direct, and not the result of any links. Since that time, I have tried to do this again, and while I have beaten the general public to finding a posting a video a few times, I haven’t been able to get a sufficient number of diggs to make the video a big hit again.

  2. Cameron, this deviates from your main point, but that data has been available on YouTube for several months. In the design before their current one, referer information was displayed inline, not hidden behind a show/hide toggle.

  3. I didn’t know about this feature on youtube but it might explain why I am actually starting to get hits on my Blog. I started linking to Youtube about a week ago.
    Thanks for the info, It is interesting look at what type of people like which videos.

  4. A very interesting post and its interesting to test this with other video’s just to see who the unknown websites and blogs are that start these popular videos.

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