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When do you think of video streaming sites, which ones come to mind? I would put my money on the fact that YouTube is the first one that most people think of. And for good reason. It’s easily the most popular and most widely used. Plus, it was one of the first sites of its kind, developing a sort of stranglehold over the market as the king of video streaming platforms. With hundreds of millions of users and, thus, hundreds of millions of user-generated videos, it is hard for any video streaming site to compete with this social video sharing giant.
However, there are many aspects of YouTube that a growing number of people around the world have begun to despise over the last few years. If you have ever spent any amount of time on YouTube, then you already know of how lousy it is with advertisements. At least if we’re talking about the basic, free version of the video streaming service. There are ads that play before nearly every video, most of which cannot be skipped. Plus, some videos (especially those on monetized channels) have advertisements built-in, in increments throughout the video stream.
This can be downright frustrating. To the point where many YouTube users have abandoned the site altogether. It’s one thing to play an ad before a video, preferably one that you can skip after a few seconds of play, as was the case when YouTube first upped the ante on their advertising. But to have several ads throughout the course of a single video? That is nothing short of overkill.
Ever since YouTube began placing ads over their content, they have gradually increased the frequency and decreased the user control over which ads they can and cannot skip. Today, I would estimate that a good 30% of your video watching time spent on YouTube is spent watching advertisements.
Which is but one of the reasons that there has been a growing demand for alternatives to YouTube? Add to this the fact that YouTube is constantly trying to push its premium services on users literally every time that they visit the site and embedding surveys into videos, and you have the perfect storm of annoyance. This is why competitor sites have risen up in hopes of stealing away some of YouTube’s hundreds of millions of users.
One of those sites is Vimeo, a 100% ad-free video streaming service. There are some central differences, though, between the way that Vimeo works (you have to pay to use it is the biggest one), as well as the types of video makers that the service attracts (more on that in a bit). Is Vimeo, then, a viable alternative to YouTube for disillusioned lovers of the original streaming platform? Well, let’s take a look, shall we?
In November of 2004, a software engineer (Jake Lodwick) and an American entrepreneur and investor (Zach Klein) founded Vimeo. Lodwick, it is said, came up with the name – a play on words created by combining “video” and “me.” Vimeo, conveniently (or creatively) enough is also an anagram of the word “movie.” Thus, with a catchy name and a dream of providing the world with ad-free video streaming, Vimeo was born.
It did not take long for Vimeo to alter the breadth of its services. Initially, Vimeo simply allowed anyone to post any kind of video content that they desired (save for, I believe, pornographic content). In July of 2008, however, the company began taking more control over the content that was hosted by Vimeo.
They formally announced in July of 2008, for instance, that they would no longer be hosting gaming videos. They cited several reasons for this decision, but the crux of the issue seemed to be surrounding the lengths these sorts of videos tended to be, resulting in their eating up of too much server space. In September of that same year, every single gaming video was purged from the site. As Vimeo grew in popularity, however, (and, thus, server space), the ban was lifted. As of October 2014, gaming videos were again allowed.
2014 was a big year for many reasons for Vimeo. It was also the year that they became the first video streaming service to offer HD videos. In December, Vimeo introduced 4K video support technology, which has resulted in nearly every other video streaming platform to scurry to catch up. Today, thanks to the precedent set by Vimeo, nearly every site on which you can stream videos offers a 4K capability.
Their next big move was one that they were, admittedly, a little late to the game on. By 2017 most sites allowed users to upload live video feeds. However, it wasn’t until September of that year that Vimeo introduced its live streaming platform, acquiring the company LiveStream in order to do so. As a result, Vimeo does have some of the highest-quality live streaming of any website, even if it took a little longer to get there.
As Vimeo was created in order to be a direct competitor with YouTube, it only seems natural to describe the site in contrast, especially since most readers are more than a little familiar with the latter streaming site. Honestly, then, I greatly prefer Vimeo’s site design over YouTubes. It is so much neater. Vimeo has opted for a much more minimalist approach, font sizes and thumbnails are much smaller than they appear on YouTube, for instance, and the delineations between video player, description, comments, and suggested videos is much clearer.
Not only do I like this for the ways in which the website becomes more visually appealing, but it also places the emphasis where it should be, on the video you are watching. Instead of simply slapping the video in a box onto the page (a la YouTube), Vimeo presents a design much closer to that of a true media player. Your video plays in a widescreen subset at the top of the page, as opposed to buried in the clutter with everything else. These clean lines and meticulously organized layouts make for a superior site design, in my opinion.
So, this might be the first area where Vimeo actually starts to fall short of YouTube. As far as numbers of videos are concerned (and, therefore, a variety of videos available), Vimeo pales in comparison. This is due to a much smaller community of active users on Vimeo compared to YouTube.
Vimeo has only 170 million users. Which may not seem like a very small number at first. Until you put it into conversation with YouTube, which boasts a staggering 2 billion monthly active users. Vimeo is, then, but a small fraction of the size of YouTube. And the content, unfortunately, reflects that.
That being said, Vimeo tends to favor quality over quantity. So, even though the numbers of videos and users are comparatively minuscule, the streaming quality and supportive nature of the userbase is where the perks of the tradeoff come into play.
As I mentioned before, Vimeo offers 4K videos (and many of them appear as such), whereas many YouTube videos tend to be grainy. Vimeo also has significantly faster-buffering speeds, whereas YouTube often lags and glitches. Plus, the community of Vimeo is supportive, and many of its members, instead of merely trolling as you often see on YouTube comments, offer thoughtful and constructive criticism where it is appreciated, praise where it is appropriate.
Desktop and Mobile Experience
As I already described, the traditional web browser site is gorgeous. And the app looks equally as nice. However, the functionality of the app, in my opinion, could be improved slightly. It is not nearly as organized or logically laid out as the site is, resulting in browsing that can be a little bit cumbersome at times. It is not the most intuitive app on the market. It is not the worst video streaming app, not by any means, but there is certainly a bit of a learning curve before you will become fully comfortable using it.
Pricing and Plans
Vimeo offers four different plans to choose from (in addition to Vimeo Basic, which anyone can use for free). If you are simply looking to stream ad-free videos and you don’t really have designs to create much of your own content, the free version will probably suffice.
However, if you do plan to use Vimeo to create content, one of the following plans will probably be worth your consideration.
Vimeo Plus costs $7 a month and gets you 5GB/week of storage.
Vimeo Pro is $20 a month, getting you 20GB/week.
Vimeo Business will run you $50 a month in exchange for no weekly limits and 5TB total.
Finally, Vimeo Pro is $75/month and that gets you no limits, 7TB of total storage and HD live streaming.
Suggestions that I Have for Vimeo
My main suggestion would be for Vimeo to take another look at their app design. I would like to see it made easier to navigate, as well as a little more intuitive to create and edit videos.