The ban on YouTube in Pakistan has been around for so long (almost 2 years) that it feels more like the norm than an anomaly. On the other hand, watching and sharing videos online has become easier for internet users in the country due to faster internet speeds, even on mobile phones. This difference between supply and demand has left an open space for video viewing and sharing platforms to capture the Pakistani market.
Some of this space has been filled by workarounds to continue using YouTube and alternative international video sharing sites, such as Daily Motion and Vimeo. But part of this market has also been claimed by a home-grown video sharing site “made for Pakistan”: Tune.pk.
How it works
The functionality of Tune.pk is extremely similar to YouTube – there are videos, channels and playlists. The videos are divided into 20 categories, ranging from “Islam” to “Comedy” to “Random Stuff”.
A search bar at the top allows you to search through the videos, and then the results can be filtered and sorted in a similar way to how YouTube does it. Users can upload videos, comment and rate existing ones.
Video Ghost Town
There is either something wrong with the view counter on the website, or a majority of videos have never been viewed. This gives an eerie ghost town like feeling to the website which gets you 10s of thousands of results to your search queries, but 80-90% of the videos have one or no views. These no view videos somehow top the search results in the default search settings, making it appear like all videos have never been viewed.
Part of the reason for the way things are is that video sharing is not organic; there are clearly fake accounts set up by the owners of the website that share thousands of unrelated (to each other videos). The accounts have names like “katy perry”, “michael caine” and “Rogue Warrior”. “Rogue Warrior”, for instance, has added around 250,000 videos over 3 months. These videos cover an extremely wide range of topics: sports, TV, music, exercise, films, trailers, comedy, tutorials and religious videos – but most of them have never been viewed.
In the same light, copyright infringement is only an issue with an official statement but no implementation. Users can report copyright infringement, but the website’s intentions seem mixed when they themselves (or unrelated super-active video uploaders) are dumping thousands of videos on the website every day.
Ranking and Popularity
According to Alexa’s ranking, however, Tune.pk is ranked 13th in popularity Pakistan. This is slightly ahead of YouTube (probably still being accessed via proxy servers) at 14th, and way behind the leading video sharing site in Pakistan (ranked 6th overall, according to Alexa): Daily Motion. Tune.pk also has 240K likes on its Facebook page and 11K followers on twitter.
Part of this success can be attributed to the videos posted by Zemtv (another top-20 website that distributes online content for 30+ Pakistani TV Channels) and ilmkiduniya (online education content portal) on tune.pk. These are the kind of connections that should be focused on rather than duplicating videos from the internet on to your website.
The other part is perhaps all the popular Indian and Pakistani songs, some religious content and other pop media videos.
The focus of tune.pk’s team to squeeze as much money out of this venture as quickly as possible is reflected in the way ads are placed on the website. The ads at the beginning of the video are rarely shorter than 10 seconds or skippable, there are ads hiding in between video suggestions on the right hand side of the video player and an ad banner next to the video at all times.
This makes the experience very annoying – even YouTube does not put ads at the beginning of every video! I suppose the target audience is assumed to have no viable alternatives, so user experience is not a consideration beyond being a functional video sharing website.
YouTube Ban Workaround
On its blog, the team behind Tune.pk reveals a Chrome extension that provides access to Youtube videos. What it claims to do is that, once the extension is installed, clicking on a YouTube video link would take you to tune.pk where the video will be “processed” and be available to be viewed.
The Chrome extension did not function when I tried it out, but even if it did, it’s against the law and just plain ethical values. For a website struggling to make a place of its own, it must be attractive for tune.pk’s team to provide a portal to access YouTube. Perhaps, they realized that this is a quicker way to haul in more website visits, rather than trying to organically grow at a normal pace.
YouTube did not become what it is today in a couple of years, and Tune.pk should try to pace itself towards its evolution. Maybe they see the website’s eventual demise in YouTube’s return to Pakistan, and want to cash in on this opportunity before that happens.
If tune.pk wants to stay around in the long-run, it needs to stop acting like they are some anonymous hackers responding to the YouTube ban. There is real potential to link up Pakistani video content on this website and drive viewership legitimately rather than the bizarre methods being employed right now which will run out of steam sooner or later.