VIA International Herald TribuneThe explosion of video content on YouTube and other sites is quickly transforming online video from a medium strictly for entertainment and news into one that is also a reference tool. As a result, video search, on YouTube and across other sites, is rapidly morphing into a new entry point into the Web, one that could rival mainstream search for many types of queries.

“There are an increasing number of people who are doing video searches to supplement and improve what they do in their offline lives,” said Suranga Chandratillake, the chief executive of Blinkx, a video search engine.

With inexpensive cameras flooding the market and a proliferation of Web sites now host to seemingly unlimited numbers of clips, it has never been easier to create and upload video. You can now find an online video on virtually any topic. Web videos teach how to grout a tub, offer of the latest touch-screen phones and give you the feel of walking across the Ponte Vecchio in Florence, Italy.

The consumption of video has soared.

In November, 146 million Americans watched videos online, streaming a total of 12.6 billion video clips, or nearly twice as many as they streamed just 20 months ago, according to comScore.

YouTube has grown even faster. Its share of videos streamed soared to 40 percent in November from 17 percent in March 2007.

And now YouTube, conceived as a video host and sharing site, has become a bona fide search tool. Searches on it in the recently edged out those on Yahoo, which had long been the No.2 search engine, behind Google, which owns YouTube. In November, Americans conducted nearly 2.8 billion searches on YouTube, about 200 million more than on Yahoo, according to comScore.

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