Autonomy. That was the term that sealed the deal as Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) and YouTube sat down at a Denny's booth and tossed around a $1.65 billion price tag. Google's bigwigs promised YouTube's founders the ability to continue to run their company, mostly unencumbered by nagging from its new parent.

After spending some time on Google Video, I can see why that was important. As great as Google can be in so many things like search, mapping, and comparison-shopping, it just doesn't have much of a clue when it comes to running a video site.

Let's take a quick tour of, and I'll show you what I mean.

The nickel-and-dime tour of Google Video
The landing page for Google's nascent video portal has improved since its launch. It initially featured just a few videos, many of which were downloads that had to be purchased. Google still has plenty of streams that it would love to sell or rent to you, but that's no longer the dominant first impression; sales and rentals are categorized appropriately along various video offerings.

So far, so bland, so good. The problems don't materialize until you start navigating through the actual videos. If you thought that the YouTube crowd was infantile, with its mad scramble to post "first comment" on popular videos, the childhood tendency to lean on salty language, and an overbearing knack for self-promotion, YouTube's citizenry appears to be Mensa-worthy compared to the Google posters.

You have to click to enable the comments on Google Video, and you may want to keep some mouthwash handy to gargle with when you're done. On-topic comments are rare, with most folks preferring to post crass racist and/or political items, as others contribute only to pimp their own uploads.

Then you have the overt trampling of intellectual capital. Just check out the "Top 100" list, and you'll find clips from networks like ESPN and Discovery Channel. They aren't just being used without permission. No, it gets worse. Third-party sites are overlaying their own website addresses as watermarks on videos that they clearly don't own. It's pretty disgraceful to see that Google is letting that kind of thievery shoot up in popularity.

Sure, other flaws are visible by scouring no further than the "Top 100" videos (like the simple fact that sometimes the same video is taking up two or three slots on the list, because it's been uploaded by different users). It's just perplexing to see Google let a wild community go so unchecked after going through the effort of booting Froogle as a landing page tab in favor of Video.

The YouTube solution
One can argue that the real allure of YouTube, that little special something that's missing from more mainstream video portal aspirants like Yahoo! (NASDAQ:YHOO) and Time Warner (NYSE:TWX), is that it's a consumer-friendly site, with simple navigation, in which democratization rules the day. YouTube does have its editorial selections, yet the same visitors that go through 100 million different streams in any given day ultimately provide the popularity ratings that drive the masses.

By the time Google closes on its purchase of YouTube come December, cynics will wonder how long it will take before Google wallpapers the site with contextually relevant Google AdWords paid-search ads, and begins giving more prominent featured space to paying members.

The problem is that YouTube was already moving in this direction long before Google co-founder Larry Page and YouTube's Chad Hurley opened their Denny's menus. YouTube was already giving networks like General Electric's (NYSE:GE) NBC and CBS (NYSE:CBS) landing-page access to promote their own videos as "Director Videos," and paid-search ad blocks have been showing up on the site for some time now.

Google promised autonomy, but check out some of the "new" features on Google Video and tell me if some of them won't spring up on YouTube by early next year. On Google, users uploading videos are now encouraged to provide captions or subtitles on their videos. Is Google making its product more useful for the hearing-impaired? Maybe, but let's not be so dense. Google is also doing so to more effectively serve up the appropriate ads relative to the video content.

That's always been the rub with video. YouTube allows its members to upload a description and provide tags. Google allows viewers to add labels of their own. It may all be in the spirit of providing a clearer product for the end user, but it's ultimately about giving Google the text data to make its paid search engine sing.

At this very moment, the hottest technologies in video are applications that allow for automated identification. YouTube and Warner Music Group (NYSE:WMG) struck the first deal in which that technology would help ferret out when Warner's music was being used without permission and allow it a cut of the related ad royalties. It's that same technology that will ultimately fuel the video revolution as the proliferation of targeted ads will offset the heavy bandwidth overhead.

Google is going to get this right. It has no choice. This is the same company that will boot your website off its search engine if it sees that you're duplicating content from someone else. This is the same company that will boot AdSense publishers if they encourage improper ad clicks. Google is the "do no evil" company, of course. Isn't it logical that it should inspire "see no evil" on its video portal, too? It will clean up its Google Video act. It will find a way to improve YouTube without killing the vibe. I'm sure of all of this. So go ahead and take in Google Video now, because an imperfect Google is a rare, and temporary, sight.

Yahoo! and Time Warner have both been recommended by David Gardner for his Stock Advisor subscribers. To see what other stocks are helping him beat the market, take a free 30-day trial today.

Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz is a "clip culture" junkie. He does not own shares in any of the companies in this story. He's also part of the Rule Breakers newsletter research team, seeking out tomorrow's ultimate growth stocks a day early. The Fool has a disclosure policy.