Dear Obama: Use BitTorrent for your Fireside podcasts

The news that President-elect Barack Obama will be using YouTube to distribute his weekly "radio" messages is met with general fanfare among the digerati.

Calling for the separation of Google and State.

The news that President-elect Barack Obama will be using YouTube to distribute his weekly "radio" address has been met by general fanfare among the digerati.

This might seem like a bold move--and compared with the relatively boring podcast MP3s of Bush's weekly speech hosted at Whitehouse.gov, it is. However, putting President-elect Obama's video podcasts on YouTube is hardly Change We Can Believe In.

By exclusively hosting his videos at YouTube, the Google-owned dominant player in the user-generated video industry, the Obama campaign has effectively issued its first no-bid giveaway of the next administration.

If Obama really wants to demonstrate his Web 2.0 bona fide intent and prove that he's actually interested in shaking things up, he'll use BitTorrent, the disruptive file-sharing tool that arguably dwarfs YouTube in popularity.

Let's explore a few reasons why Obama should ditch his YouTube plans and switch to BitTorrent:

  • As demonstrated by the recent flood of constituent complaints to the House and Senate during the banking bailout, the .gov network simply can't deal with lots of traffic.
  • It's not the government's role to pick industry winners and losers. Sure, YouTube has millions of users, but I'm sure that the other Silicon Valley-based user-submitted video sites would love to draw the eyeballs of Obama's podcast subscribers. What about Veoh, Vuze, Hulu, Revver, and Blip.tv?
  • While it's awfully nice of Google-YouTube to volunteer the hundreds of gigabytes of bandwidth necessary to host Obama's video content, is it really appropriate to further expand the link between Google and the Obama Whitehouse?

    Google CEO Eric Schmidt already has Obama's ear as a member of his economic advisory board; the Obama campaign has likely paid hundreds of thousands of dollars to Google for AdWords advertising during the campaign; and Google.org's Sonal Shah has landed a key key role on Obama's transition committee. Simply put, things are already close enough between Change.gov and the Google Gang.
  • There are no copyright issues--since the videos will be made by the federal government, they are automatically in the public domain. Thus, it is perfectly OK for them to be shared via peer-to-peer technologies.
  • It'd give Obama a reason to care about Net neutrality. Some on the left are already voicing fears that Obama will soften on his commitment to the Net neutrality cause. Once his weekly addresses are hosted via BitTorrent, he'll have a vested interest in keeping the pipes tamper free. In such a scenario, any antifile-sharing shenanigans by Comcast or other ISPs would directly impact Obama's ability to speak to the people.
  • The Canadians already do it: CBC--Canada's version of PBS--has had highly successful trials of BitTorrent as a low cost, high-throughput method of distributing video content. Since we're hopefully going to copy the Canadian's obviously better health care system, why not similarly learn from their use of file sharing?

The time is right for the U.S. government to adopt BitTorrent. Mr. Obama, be bold, be brave, and upload to The Pirate Bay.

A tip of the hat to Aaron Shaw, who inspired this blog post in a conversation earlier today.

 

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