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Google bought YouTube right after deciding against a Google-branded Flip Video

Google apparently mulled over making a Google-branded Flip Video camera. It decided against the deal and bought YouTube.

Published onJuly 30, 2020

  • It has been revealed that, in 2006, Google mulled over the idea of partnering with Pure Digital, the creator of the iconic Flip Video camera.
  • The new information was sourced from Google emails handed to the House Judiciary Committee’s antitrust subcommittee.
  • Instead of releasing a Google-branded Pure Digital camera, Google instead bought YouTube months later, one of its most successful acquisitions.

Remember the Flip Video handheld camcorder? You can refresh your memory with the image above, but it was essentially a pre-smartphone camera that allowed you to easily capture video. Your media would save to the built-in memory and you could easily transfer that media using the iconic flip-out USB connector.

Well, according to some new company emails submitted to the House Judiciary Committee’s antitrust subcommittee (via The Verge), Google was mulling over partnering with Pure Digital, the creator of the Flip Video camera. This would have resulted in Google’s first-ever camera and possibly even its first hardware product, had the deal gone through.

The Flip Video deal: What happened?

In January 2006, Pure Digital was working heavily with the pre-Google YouTube, envisioning a “MySpace-like service but focused around video” with the Flip as the best way to upload content. A Google executive working at what was then known as Google Video floated the idea of partnering with Pure Digital to make Google Video the default hosting partner.

A month later, that idea went one step further with Pure Digital becoming interested in creating a Google-branded camera. Remember that this is 2006, two years before the first Android smartphone, and well before Google entered the hardware space.

However, Google Video director Jennifer Feikin presented the idea of acquiring YouTube instead. Her reasoning was that YouTube’s community was something Google Video hadn’t yet built. By buying YouTube, Google could help expand the user base while adopting the UI and developed community of YouTube — a win-win deal for both brands. “Then,” she says in the email, “if they [YouTube] do a deal with Pure Digital, we’ll get it anyway.”

As history buffs will likely remember, Google closed its deal for YouTube only a few months later in October 2006 to the tune of $1.65 billion.

Sadly, the Flip Video camera didn’t survive the smartphone boom. By 2011, after getting bought by Cisco for $590 million, Pure Digital shut down completely. Things may have been different if this Google deal had come to pass!

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