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Among other things, 2006 will be remembered as the year online video really became something you share, not just something you log onto and watch.
Sure, there will always be a place for viral videos that get emailed to dozens of friends and coworkers. I mean, who ever gets tired of watching a cat flush a toilet or seeing a skateboarder render himself infertile?
But the sheer volume of video sharing sites that have come online in the past 18 months suggests that the online video trend won't be confined to something people do to entertain themselves on a coffee break. To wit, hundreds of thousands of consumers are beginning to share video online, and that's having a profound impact on how much bandwidth is consumed and how broadband providers make money.
"HDTV, next-generation gaming, personal video, and digital photography will all contribute to the emergence of a new broadband gold standard of 100 Mbit/s symmetric over the next 12 to 24 months," writes Heavy Reading senior analyst Graham Finnie in his latest report on the fiber-to-the-home market. (See FTTH Hits Mainstream.)
Video sharing: the viral spiral
Bandwidth consumption isn't the only byproduct of the increase in video sharing. Content distribution networks are beefing up, and the companies in that space are thriving as Web-based services make it easy to exchange larger and larger files. (See CacheLogic Builds P2P Content Network and Video Caching Steps Into the Limelight.) Also, service providers like AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T) are pairing up with Internet TV companies like Akimbo Systems to make sure they can deliver, not just regular TV channels, but some consumer-generated content as well. (See AT&T, Cisco Elbow Into Akimbo and Will Telcos Want Their Dave.tv?)
Content makers and advertisers are seeking out online video sites as a way to reach younger demographics. (See Google Pushes MTV Video.) Even Microsoft Corp. (Nasdaq: MSFT) says it won't be left out. "MSN is currently developing a user-generated/user-submitted video solution that will launch this year," a spokeswoman for Microsoft says. "The solution will integrate with Windows Live Spaces and across MSN.com. Stay tuned!"
The Top Ten
With all that going on, it's definitely worth looking at who stands out in this ridiculously crowded space. Since popular opinion does matter online – where the consumer experience is hugely important – we thought it'd be useful to rank some of the Internet's most popular video sharing sites by how they performed from the point of view of someone wanting to post videos rather than just look at someone else's.
Without further ado, here's our list of the Top Ten Video Sharing Sites
6) Google Video
Here are the video sharing site rankings, in full:
Table 1: Video Sharing Sites: The Rankings
|Website||Ease of Use (30 points possible)||File Size, Storage Limitations (30 points possible)||Other Stuff: Format Flexibility, Editing, Distribution, and Privacy Options (40 points possible)||Final Score||Comments|
|Blip.tv||30||30||35||95||Does everything imaginable with uploaded videos. Doesn't have editing features yet, though.|
|VideoEgg||30||25||39||94||VideoEgg makes it so easy to push videos to other sites, and the videos look great when they arrive. By far, this was one of the most responsive services we tested.|
|Dailymotion||30||26||35||91||Responsive site and very easy to use. Distribution options were especially nice, too.|
|YouTube||27||28||35||90||YouTube is definitely the gold standard of video sharing sites. And, even though the site clutter is excessive and a few features need tweaking, there's definitely a reason why they're the one to beat.|
|Veoh||27||30||30||87||Is this the P2P dream come true? Veoh's created a very solid, reliable video sharing experience sweetened by the lack of upload size restrictions. Bravo, Veoh!|
|Google Video||30||25||31||86||Typical Google. Easy on the eyes. Easy to use. Limited distribution options.|
|Grouper||19||26||40||85||A little confusing at first, but the service has lots and lots of functionality once you download the free software application.|
|Jumpcut||30||10||40||80||The best online editing tools. Pity about the file size restrictions, though.|
|AOL||26||25||28||79||The VideoEgg technology makes uploading, trimming, and viewing easy. Distribution options are limited, and one set of embeddable links provided were full of HTML errors.|
|Eyespot||30||14||34||78||This site has some of the coolest editing features.|
|Fliqz||30||15||30||75||Very user friendly and family friendly. Sparse sharing options. No editing. But the site was only launched in July, so it's got lots of room to grow.|
|Guba||20||27||28||75||Another site that's pretty good, but doesn't really stand out in a crowd.|
|Openvlog||30||20||25||75||Another nice site. "Record" feature allows users with Webcams to make their own video on the spot.|
|Revver||25||15||35||75||Another nice overall site. Takes a while for video to show up, though.|
|ManiaTV||30||15||28||73||Tom Green has a ManiaTV show. Why don't you?|
|ClipShack||25||20||27||72||A nice site that's easy to use.|
|Motionbox||27||15||30||72||Motionbox offers an exceptional feature that allows you to highlight specific bits of videos and share just the good stuff. Blog support and other distribution options are coming along. This site will definitely climb in the ranks as it matures.|
|Eefoof.com||25||30||15||70||What was all the hype about?|
|MySpace||30||15||25||70||Slim sharing options. No video editing. And, as usual, there's a file size limit.|
|Sharkle||25||20||25||70||It's called Sharkle, but it doesn't sparkle.|
|Vimeo||30||10||30||70||Another winner in the "ease of use" category. The lack of viral videos on the site is nice, too.|
|vMix||22||20||25||67||Slideshow tools are nice. But this site's video sharing experience is only a little above average.|
|Bolt||25||15||25||65||Supports RSS feeds, but other distribution options weren't apparent. Lots of contests that appeal to teens.|
|DropShots.com||25||10||30||65||Like Phanfare and Fliqz, this one's family friendly and easy to use, but probably more appealing for photo sharing.|
|GoFish||25||10||30||65||Not a bad starter site. But you should go fish for something better if you're serious about video.|
|Phanfare||20||25||20||65||This ad-free, clutter-free site was conceived around sharing, archiving, and uploading photos, so the support of video is sort of a bonus for existing members. Not really a place to start if you're serious about video.|
|Video Webtown||20||30||15||65||We had a tough time uploading and converting a Windows Media file. Otherwise, the site's clunky design might be worth tolerating so long as it continues to offer more storage space than most sharing sites.|
|VidiLife||5||30||30||65||We could complain about the user interface and the lack of features, but why bother? The annoying Circuit City popup ads on every page will keep users away in droves.|
|vSocial||25||15||25||65||Sparse and functional, like Google. But ugly, like something a novice would have built.|
|iFilm||28||15||20||63||This site used to be good for seeing studio content and serious short films. Now it's also a "me too" in the viral video space.|
|Panjea||26||15||20||61||A Revver-ish site with more community site features.|
|Atom Films (AddictingClips.com)||25||15||20||60||Supports all the right formats. No decent distribution options. Privacy options unclear.|
|Photobucket||15||15||30||60||Another photo site with bolted-on video features. Functional, but not impressive.|
|HomeMovie.com||12||15||30||57||Nice software, but the company's video sharing, distribution options, and pricing model are holdovers from the days of videotape.|
|Yahoo Video||20||15||22||57||Where's the creativity? Yahoo is just doing a "me too" � and not a very good one, either.|
|Filecow||30||10||15||55||A fine place to host small files for free.|
|Streamload's Mediamax||0||30||25||55||We couldn't get Streamload to upload! We've heard raves about the sharing service and registering was dead easy, but uploading wasn't possible � even after rebooting, turning off the firewall, and changing to a different Internet connection. Maybe you'll have better luck.|
|Metacafe||15||15||20||50||Hard to see why the world needs YouTube and Metacafe. During a test upload the site couldn't recognize the same Windows Media file that 40-something other sites had no trouble accepting.|
|ZippyVideos||25||5||20||50||Meow. Another copycat site with nothing new to offer.|
|Lulu TV||15||10||20||45||Maybe instead of paying content creators, they should concentrate on hiring some good Web designers.|
|Ourmedia||2||30||10||42||What a mess! The folks at Ourmedia are so inclusive they've managed to create a site that's cluttered, slow, and doesn't work � for everyone.|
|Putfile||20||5||15||40||Viciously viral. YouTube's UK cousin, perhaps?|
|Castpost||10||10||10||30||The site took forever to load, and our video never did appear. Looks as though they're going through some growing pains.|
|Yikers||5||0||5||10||You can share videos here, but Yikers is mainly a place for folks who want to watch viral videos without ads.|
|Pooxi||Incomplete||Incomplete||Incomplete||Incomplete||This is a popular site, but we didn't rank because our ability to read French might've caused them undeserved ratings damage.|
|Sources: Light Reading and company data|
The burning questions
Now that you know who the winners and losers are, let's get into how we arrived at our scores. It all started with the following blogs, which helped generate the list of 45 video sharing Websites that we went on to evaluate, and helped identify the issues that differentiate them:
- Ease of use. Maximum possible score: 30
- File size, storage limitations. Maximum possible score: 30
- "Other stuff" including format flexibility, editing capabilities, distribution networks, and privacy options. Maximum score 40.
The scoring system aims to reflect the likely viewpoint of consumers who are relatively new to video sharing – folks more inclined to start out by just sharing video with family and friends. We also gave lots of consideration to content creators who are using the Internet as a cheap distribution platform. Hence the scoring that goes beyond ease of use to also look at costs, site performance, file size limitations, and distribution options.
The people whose needs we really didn't consider are the compulsive viral video posters looking for an "Internet hit." Chances are that group has found a handful of favorite sites already.
For the reasons behind some of the scores, check out Table 2: Table 2: Video Sharing Websites: Burning Questions
|Website||Does the service offer video editing capability?||What's the file size limit?||How much does it cost?||Can I keep a video private?||Does it require a software download?|
|AOL||Yes, you can trim the video's length.||From the site: "To keep things manageable, the maximum video length has been set to 5 minutes."||Free||No||No|
|Atom Films (AddictingClips.com)||No||100 Mbytes. Clips must be 10 minutes long or less.||Free||Yes||No|
|Blip.tv||No||There's no enforced limit. But the service "strongly recommends" files smaller than 100 Mbytes "for performance purposes."||Free||No||No|
|Castpost||No||50-Mbyte clip requirement. Unless you ask for special permission.||From the Website: "The current Alpha service is free. But we may try to recover some of our costs through ads."||Yes||No|
|ClipShack||No||100 Mbytes, but you can upload larger files using a free software app; up to 5 Gbytes of storage||Free||Yes||No|
|DropShots.com||No||The free version is limited to 500 photos and 10 videos. Photos can be any file size and any dimension. Videos can be any file size and up to 2 minutes in length.||Free||Yes||No|
|Eefoof.com||No||Videos must 200 Mbytes or less in size and 10 minutes or less in length.||Free||No||No|
|Eyespot||Yes||Max one-time upload limit is seven 50-Mbyte videos||Free||Yes||No|
|Google Video||No||None. From the company's user guidelines: "You can upload as many videos to Google Video as you like, without any size or length limitations." WOW! Note: Files over 100 Mbytes require a software app to upload.||Free||No||No|
|Grouper||Yes||110 Mbytes||Free (for now)||Yes||Yes, for everything except tiny, tiny files.|
|Guba||No||1.2 Gbytes per upload, but there's no length limit.||Free||Yes||No|
|HomeMovie.com||Yes||None||Free (share up to 5 hours of video online per month)||Yes||Yes|
|Lulu TV||No||32 Mbytes with a free account. 100 Mbytes with a $14.95/month account.||Free, unless you become a Shareholder||Yes||No|
|Streamload's Mediamax||No||The site's free accounts provide 25 Gbytes of free storage for any kind of media files. Free users are also limited to 1 Gbyte of access bandwidth per month.||Free||Yes||No|
|Openvlog||No||Under 5 minutes in length||Free||Yes||No|
|Panjea||No||100 Mbytes per file. 250 Mbytes of storage overall.||Free||No||No|
|Phanfare||No||Phanfare accepts video clips up to 5 minutes in length or 1 Gbyte in size.||$6.95/mo. for unlimited storage||Yes||Yes|
|Photobucket||No||Free accounts get 1 GByte of space and 10 GBytes of bandwidth per month. Video clips can't exceed 5 minutes each.||Free||Yes||No|
|Pooxi||No||50 Mbytes||Free||Not sure. The site's primary language is French.||No|
|Sharkle||No||100 Mbytes||Free (up to 1 Gbyte of storage)||Yes||No|
|Veoh||No||None. Movies can be any length and as high quality as you like.||Free||Yes||Yes|
|Video Webtown||No||30 Gbytes of disk space and 30 Gbytes of bandwidth per user||Free||Yes||No|
|VideoEgg||Yes. Same as with AOL � if a video is too long, you can use a preview player to trim its length and erase sections you don't want.||Videos must be kept to less than 5 minutes long. From the site: "While there's no technical limit to the length of video the Publisher can post, long videos are expensive to store and stream."||Free (for now)||Yes||Yes. The VideoEgg publisher is required, but it's just a tiny Web browser plug-in and installs in a minute.|
|Vimeo||No||30 Mbytes a week||Free||No||No|
|vMix||Yes (For slideshows only)||200 Mbytes||Free||Yes||No|
|Yahoo Video||No||100 Mbytes||Free||No||No|
|Yikers||No||Under 10 Mbytes||$4.98/mo.||No||No|
|YouTube||No||None. From the site's FAQ: "Most videos on YouTube are under five minutes long. There is no specific length limit, but longer videos require more compression to fit in the 100MB size limit, and the quality will go down as the length of the video goes up."||Free||Yes||No|
|ZippyVideos||No||Under 10 Mbytes without registration. Up to 20 Mbytes with user registration.||Free||Yes||No|
|Sources: Light Reading and company data|
This drills down on the following issues:
- Video editing capabilities
- File size limit
- How much it costs
- Whether videos can be kept private
- Whether a software download is necessary
Yahoo Inc. (Nasdaq: YHOO), for instance, grants itself the right to use your videos "for advertising, promotional or commercial purposes, including without limitation, the right to publicly display, perform, reproduce and distribute Your Video Content in any media format or medium and through any media channels."
And Yahoo's terms are pretty typical. Another way to think of it: If you upload a certifiable mainstream hit, they'll make bank on the motion picture rights and DVD sales – not you. So there. You've been warned. Be careful.
Copping some traffic
So now we've covered our methodology, here are some final bits of information we picked up along the way that, while not critical to our rankings, do shed some light on the overall growth of the online video sharing market.
One item of interest: Not all the sites that stand out, performed well, and flourished in the rankings have managed to attract a massive online audience. Interestingly, only a few in our Top Ten List have what could be considered remarkable traffic numbers, but that's likely to change, considering how relatively new some of these video sharing services are:
Table 3: By the Numbers: Light Reading's Top 10 Video Sharing Sites
|Light Reading Rank||Site||Unique Audience||Time Spent Per Person (hh:mm:ss)|
|Source: Nielsen//NetRatings � U.S. Home and Work Audience, July 2006|
* Note: Because the audience measured for these Websites is smaller than the standard sample size, the projected audience figures for these sites may vary greatly from month to month.
** These Websites have insufficient sample sizes for reliable projection of audience size.
Finally, while we're focusing here on video sharing services, we thought it might also be interesting to see what online video sites are most popular in the U.S. and abroad. Relatively few sites have managed to pull off becoming both an entertainment destination and a user-friendly hub for video distribution:
Table 4: Top US Online Video Sites, Week Ending August 5, 2006
|U.S. Rank||Name||Domain||Market Share of Visits|
|3||Yahoo! Video Search||video.search.yahoo.com||6.85%|
|4||MSN Video Search||video.msn.com||6.14%|
Data based on Market Share of Visits, which is the percentage of all traffic to a particular Website.
Table 5: Top UK Online Video Sites, Week Ending August 5, 2006
|UK Rank||Name||Domain||Market Share of Visits|
|4||Google Video UK||video.google.co.uk||6.18%|
|6||Yahoo! Video Search||video.search.yahoo.com||2.36%|
Data based on Market Share of Visits, which is the percentage of all traffic to a particular Website.
— Phil Harvey, News Editor, Light Reading
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