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The basics behind the Web's latest video-swapping site

Plugging into YouTube 

Plugging into YouTube

Judging from the success of Survivor, American Idol, and the many, many spin-offs that have come into existence, reality television has completely dominated American pop culture. If you're still waiting for your 15 minutes of reality fame, wait no more. There's a faster way to attain the lowest level of celebrity status --- the "viral video." It's free, it's easy, and it's accessible to millions of people all over the world, everyday. Just turn to your trusty personal computer for the new wave of reality television: YouTube.

Located at www.youtube.com, YouTube allows people to watch and share original videos worldwide through the Web. The website hosts a stock of more than 50 million videos, all of them free to the public. To host your own videos, however, you must be at least 13 years old and have a valid e-mail address.

YouTube members get plenty of easy-to-access benefits. You are assigned your own "channel," where you can upload and share your videos. YouTube also lets you search other members' channels, join groups ranging from punk rock fans to Final Fantasy gamers, and collect your favorite videos (hint: search "star jones" + "football"). Have a clip of your pet Sparky doing his best trick? YouTube allows you to share it with friends and family through e-mail too. Members control the popularity of video clips through ratings and comments.

The material featured on YouTube is vast and widely ranging. You can find personal accounts of current events, videos of personal hobbies or interests, or discover the quirky and unusual. I was happy to find short clips of my favorite TV shows no longer on the air. Think the best parts of "Saved by the Bell" sliced, diced, and set to a whole new soundtrack by someone with way too much time on their hands.

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