Peter Kafka

Recent Posts by Peter Kafka

"YouTube Instant" Dude Can't Go to Work for Chad Hurley, Because He's Already Working for Mark Zuckerberg

There are lots of ways to become famous on the Internet. It took Feross Aboukhadijeh three hours of coding.

When he was done, he had built “YouTube Instant,” a great riff on Google’s (GOOG) own Instant search service. On Thursday night he told a couple hundred friends about the site via Twitter, and from there it went to Y Combinator’s Hacker News, and then to this site, and then on to the rest of the Web.

So far, the most tangible benefit Aboukhadijeh has gotten from his instafame is a job offer, via Twitter, from YouTube cofounder Chad Hurley. But the Stanford junior can’t take him up on it–he’s already working for Mark Zuckerberg, as a Facebook intern, working on something “really cool.”

Here’s more on Aboukhadijeh, via a quickie email interview we put together on Friday. He was a little time-pressed: In addition to class, and work at Facebook, he had to figure out how to keep his site running under a crush of traffic.

Peter Kafka: Great site. What’s the inspiration?

Feross Aboukhadijeh: I decided to do this after hearing about Google Instant. I thought that instant search for YouTube videos would be really cool. My roommate bet me that I couldn’t code it up in an hour. It ended up taking three hours, so he won the bet.

Kafka: What’s the goal here?

Aboukhadijeh: I think YouTube Instant makes sense if you’re looking for a serendipitous video browsing experience. It’s not as useful as Google Instant if you know exactly what you’re looking for, since you’re shown distracting YouTube videos on the way to your destination. But I think this is perfect for many Internet users. :)

Kafka: What are you specializing in at Stanford?

Aboukhadijeh: I’m a Junior in the Stanford CS program. I’m interested in Internet technology, building Web sites, and computer security. I really enjoy building products that entertain and delight people, like YouTube Instant.

Kafka: Besides this, what’s your favorite project you’ve worked on?

Aboukhadijeh: I’ve been working at Facebook as a software engineer intern for the summer. Right now, we’re building something really cool that’s going to be released soon, but I can’t share any details because it’s top secret! :)

Kafka: I’m assuming you used the YouTube API to build this, correct? Any reaction from them so far?

Aboukhadijeh: I built YouTube Instant using a combination of the YouTube API and scraping YouTube search suggestions. No reaction from Google so far, but I think they’ll probably get a kick out of it. The YouTube CEO actually offered me a job on Twitter, he liked it so much.

I initially ran into some issues when Google automatically blocked my server for making too many repeated requests, but I just rewrote the site to query YouTube directly using Javascript on the client-side. This means that all the magic happens in each visitor’s browser, so it’s faster and Google can’t block it.

Kafka: What’s the plan after you graduate?

Aboukhadijeh: One day, I’d like to start a company that becomes the next Google and fundamentally changes the world for the better.

I like the ambition! Meanwhile I like YouTube Instant a lot. FYI, this classic is what the site suggests if you type in “Facebook”:

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Just as the atom bomb was the weapon that was supposed to render war obsolete, the Internet seems like capitalism’s ultimate feat of self-destructive genius, an economic doomsday device rendering it impossible for anyone to ever make a profit off anything again. It’s especially hopeless for those whose work is easily digitized and accessed free of charge.

— Author Tim Kreider on not getting paid for one’s work