Media Perspective: Video's new-found cheapness has put it at the cutting edge

The story of communications technology is infuriatingly simple. Things that were once expensive and difficult become cheap and easy. This upsets and confuses everything.

It's happening now to video. It was once the most complicated, expensive, arcane and mysterious thing in our arsenal, surrounded by wizards and guilds who carefully guarded its mysteries, revealing them only to those who would cross their palms with silver. Or awards. Now, though, it's cheap as chips. Cheap to make, to store, to distribute and to watch. So all sorts of things start to change.

First of all, TV is becoming incredibly personal. YouTube led the way. The marketing industry tended to mistake it for a way of getting a viral "out there" and would celebrate the odd film that got millions of views, but it was never really about that. It was a way of sharing video with your friends. Video which, because of the way both the maker and the viewer were invested in it and connected to it, became more powerful than any regular broadcast telly.

This effect is only magnifying as greater numbers of video sites arrive, with new, more personal, more intimate, more customisable features. A couple worth looking at are Vodpod and Seesmic.

Vodpod's interesting because it's not really about making video, it's there to collect, organise and share the stuff you've found. It's the perfect way to curate a video collection, and its very existence illustrates the wealth of content available. (still in "alpha" at the moment) is like a video version of twitter: it's a video conversation site that adds video to the banal, trivial, personal and, therefore, supremely important chatter of everyday life. The connective tissue that you once found on SMS or IM is migrating via Seesmic to video.

At the other end of the scale, Mr Bill Gates recently announced the first "long-tail Olympics". Microsoft's done a deal with NBC to offer massively extended video coverage of the Olympics - more than 3,000 hours, either live or on-demand. So if you want to watch every heat of the "50 metre Rifle Three Positions Men" you can. I'll be watching. I suspect we're in with a chance on that one.

And, have you played with the BBC iPlayer yet? The Flash version? You really should, a couple of clicks and you're watching telly on your computer. Very, very easily. It's only the past seven days right now, but that's a legal issue, not a technical one.

This super-abundance of video is going to shake our little world up even more. I'm not sure what you should do about it, but I'm certain you should have a look at some of those sites and start having a think.