Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Youtube.com & uTube.com

UTube is a business selling tubes, pipes, “tube mills” and other machinery. The company, with just 17 employees, got 68 million hits on its site in August, making it one of the most popular manufacturing websites. They complained a few weeks back that the site was being downed by heavy traffic as users looking for YouTube landed on their site instead, presumably by typing the wrong domain name. This downtime cost them a great deal of money in lost customers, they said. How big was the traffic spike? They claim unique visitors went from 1,500 to over 2 million per month. UTube has been forced to move hosts 5 times to cope with the traffic, with bandwidth bills increasing by a factor of 100, they claim. They registered the domain way back in 1996, so they have every claim to it - what’s more, they also argue that the UTube name is strongly tied to their identity.
How does it feel to have the same name as a company that's wildly popular with millions of people? Ask Ralph Girkins of UTube. Girkins walks through a giant warehouse that houses UTube. Welders work on 40-foot-long pipe-making machines. They look sort of like giant, green tractor engines. "
"This is an enormous expense and distraction for us. We thought we were doing a great marketing job. But they weren't looking for us. We've had to move our site five times in an effort to stay ahead of the youtube.com visitors. Before YouTube, there were about 1,000 real customers visiting utube.com each month. Today, there are about 150,000 people a day typing "u tube" the wrong way, and winding up on our site. We couldn't keep our server up. That's what happened. Contact with our customers has been disrupted, so I fear we have lost sales. We have even been contacted by police in Australia accusing us of having child pornography on our Web site. I resent this personally and this confusion is hurting our business." said Ralph Girkins, Universal Tube's president. His website was overwhelmed by millions of people looking for YouTube, so he sued the online video-sharing,YouTube.com portal.
The lawsuit asks that YouTube stop using the youtube.com domain name or reimburse Universal Tube for the cost of establishing a new corporate identity.
"We were there first--by 10 years. Now I see a potential re-branding that could take years to complete," Girkins said. "I'm not the kind of person who looks for lawsuits, but my business is being threatened by this situation."
You might think that's not such a big deal. This company is rebuilding industrial machinery. It's not exactly an Internet outfit. But Girkins says that 75 percent of his sales come in over the Web site. And with each one of these large tube-making machines costing a few hundred thousand dollars, he just can't have his Web site going down. And then there's the nuisance factor. Some confused people call the phone number on his company's Web site.
The suit comes about three weeks after YouTube was purchased by Google for $1.65 billion in stock. A YouTube spokeswoman said the company declined to comment on the matter.
As the lawsuit puts it, these unwanted visitors, "often fill out Plaintiff's sales request form, seeking more information in a vulgar and belligerent manner. Exhibit 1 is a message left by one visitor who asks, 'WHERE THE F*** ARE THE VIDEOS??? 1.5 BILLION DOLLARS FOR THIS PIECE OF S*** WEBSITE? GOOGLE GOT TAKEN.'"
According to UTube manager Laura Smirin, a lot of the phone calls and e-mails were very rude. "They were just nasty," Smirin says.
Girkins has hundreds of them on his computer in his office. He sits and scrolls through them: "Idiot, idiot, idiot," he reads. Some of the hate mail is about the lawsuit. Some YouTube enthusiasts seem to be worried that this equipment company might be threatening their favorite alternative video site, even though Google's YouTube is clearly the bigger company.
"We're just the little guy," Girkins says.
A judge has already dismissed some of the claims in the lawsuit. Google says the remaining claims lack merit and that it will vigorously defend itself. Some legal experts say Universal Tube might have a legitimate case. But they say such cases usually settle before trial.
Meanwhile, Girkins is trying to take advantage of the extra visitors to his company's Web site. He has ads selling ring tones and dating services to meet hot singles. Girkins says, so far, the banner ads are covering his legal fees and Web site hosting costs.
With 2 MILLION visits per day, if they were to put some pay per click ads on their site, or even convert the entire page into a pay per click landing page, they could probably bring in several thousands of dollars per day EASILY. I would really be interested to see how much they could make by doing this.
Personally I think it's worth more like $10,000,000, so I think they are wise to hold out. The domain could easily make 1 million dollars per year with the right PPC ads on it.
Look at this graphic to see what traffic they have, comparing with other variants of "youtube":

The above graphic compares the utube with "google" variants:

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