What is the point of the internet if not to find and share tons of ridiculous, funny, inspiring, or otherwise entertaining videos? You know, cute cats knocking things off tables, people trying to do backflips and failing miserably, babies tasting sour foods for the first time … that kind of stuff. When it comes to finding meme-worthy viral videos to share with our friends, we are certainly at no shortage these days.
It all started, of course, with a little website called YouTube. They were the first ones to provide a platform for us to share (and even create) all of our favorite silly videos. Today, however, the status of YouTube has come quite a long way from what it was in its infancy.
People can actually make a decent living nowadays from monetizing their YouTube channels. Whether they do unboxings, reaction videos, reviews, etc. It’s pretty amazing to see how far YouTube has truly come over the years. Who knew, for instance, when YouTube first started that it would one day offer its own form of cable television?
That being said, there are downsides, too, to You Tube’s meteoric rise as a cultural phenomenon. To the point where many people who once swore by the video streaming and sharing platform are reluctant to even use it if it can be avoided. We all know, for example, how obnoxious YouTube has become with advertising. How they gradually started adding more and more ads before videos to the point where it is today: you can hardly watch anything on YouTube anymore – what you get is like 50% ads and 50% actual video content.
So, then, what is a viral video lover to do? Now that YouTube has joined the ranks of social media and video sharing websites to have completely sold out, people are looking for viable alternatives. It has gotten so bad, actually, that people have even begun suggesting that we just start uploading normal, family-friendly videos to Porn Hub!
But before you resign to that extreme alternative, I ask you to consider one of the many other video sharing websites that exist, that don’t require our fun viral videos to appear alongside millions of NSFW clips. Sites like Daily Motion or the site that we will be looking at today, Meta Café might just be the next best thing now that YouTube has become one giant streaming commercial feed.
If you have never heard of Meta Café, now is the time to become acquainted with the free website. It has countless potentially viral videos, allows users to upload content of their own, and even offers image galleries – all of which are easily shared to social media, so you can ensure that you and your friends never miss a laugh or a gasp.
Meta Café may not be as popular as it once was. But it is still a website that cannot be ignored. At its peak, though, the video streaming platform, as of March 2011, used to attract 13 million unique monthly users in the United States alone. And, beyond that, the site’s global reach was that of 40 million unique monthly users. These numbers are very impressive in the world of online video streaming sites.
Meta Café was founded in Tel Aviv by entrepreneurs from Israel, Eyal Hertzog (Chief Technical Officer) and Arik Czerniak (Chief Executive Officer). They started out with a sizeable investment from Benchmark Capital of $3 million. And in June of 2006, Meta Café closed its first very impressive round of fundraising at a grand total of $12 million. In September of that year, Meta Café relocated its headquarters to Palo Alto, California, which put them in the position to grow to become the third-largest video streaming site in the world.
Also in 2006, Meta Café announced that they would follow in You Tube’s footsteps and begin paying content producers. They did this through a program called Producer Rewards. The way this worked is that any video that was viewed at least 20,000 times, received a rating of 3.0 or higher, and did not infringe on copyright laws or Meta Café community standards was awarded $50 for every 1,000 views generated in the US.
Although this program helped a few people make a decent amount of money for a few years, it was severely curtailed towards the end of 2008 and was ended altogether due to a lack of profitability for the company. This also likely had to do with a leadership change that occurred around the same time.
Erick Hachenburg, who was once an executive with Electronic Arts (EA), took over briefly as Meta Café’s CEO in 2007. However, by the time 2011 rolled around, he left his post after being acquired by a digital talent agency called The Collective. The details surrounding the acquisition were never released, but rumor has it that the total amount paid was far less than the amount that had been invested into Meta Café up to that point.
Meta Café, rather unsurprisingly (in my opinion) does not look entirely unlike YouTube in terms of design. Sure, the site’s theme is different (oppositional, in fact) with blue pops of color against a white background instead of You Tube’s iconic red and white theme. But in terms of the way the site itself is laid out the influence is clear.
At the top of the page, of course, you will find the search bar, allowing users to type in whatever keywords they can think up. And to the left of that, you will find a clickable dropdown hamburger style menu, which allows users to browse everything the site has to offer – either by Home, Trending, Popular, or Latest; or by category (such as art, animation, cooking, music, entertainment, news, sports, video games, pets, etc.). And in the middle, you’ll find a bunch of featured videos to browse through.
Once you click into a video, though, the design shortcomings of Meta Café begin to present themselves. Video pages are unnecessarily cluttered, if you ask me, and make it hard to seamlessly navigate the site from one video to the next. The margins, for example, are jampacked with content … ads, related videos, videos you might like, and recommended channels. They are trying to cram too much in too small a space and it comes off as sloppy and distracting.
We have already discussed what Meta Café features a little bit. But to reiterate, in addition to thousands of viral-worthy videos, you’ll also find sharable image galleries that are meme ready and/or otherwise intriguing or provocative in some way. The videos are usually extremely short and, given the user uploaded nature of them (and the lack of monetization) tend to be rather low quality.
This is where Meta Café really starts to fall in favor. The videos, in my opinion, are often garbage. They are way too short to even be as interesting as they pretend to be. If I had to describe the nature of the content, I would say that, instead of being viral or meme friendly, they are actually closer to something like clickbait. Sensationalized low-quality videos, sure, can be a time suck, but they don’t seem to offer much outside of that.
Desktop and Mobile Experience
Although there is no Meta Café app (which I was surprised to find out), I will say this about the site: at least it is optimized well for mobile browsers. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for far too many sites out there these days (especially considering the fact that most of us spend a lot of our internet browsing time on our phones). The site functions just as well on your laptop as it does on your smartphone or tablet. So, there is nothing to worry about on that front. Of course, an app would be better, but, hey, I’ll take what I can get.
Pricing and Plans
Meta Café is 100% free to use and upload videos. However, the downside to this is that there are tons of ads. You’ll find ads before videos, as well as many embedded ads on every page. It can be very annoying, but at least it is free.
Suggestions that I have for Meta Café
Calm down with the ads, please. It is definitely overboard. Honestly, YouTube is better on this front. And that is saying a lot. I would also like to see Meta Café release an app one of these days. Perhaps a premium version of the site could act as a counterweight so that they wouldn’t rely on ad revenue so, so heavily.