Watching video online has become a passtime activity on a par with using webmail services and social networking. There are two aspects to video streaming web sites, one from the perspective of the person who is watching the videos, and another from the perspective of the person who is sharing content that he/she has created. The first web site that comes to mind at the mention of video streaming is YouTube, which takes up the lion’s share of hits among video streaming sites, as well as the total bandwidth of the internet itself. However, there are a number of other video streaming web sites out there, many of them with a lot of quality content to offer. The web sites shortlisted were Blip.tv, Metacafe, Vimeo, Veoh, Dailymotion and YouTube.
Blip.tv stands out as having a slightly different format for uploading videos, and is a web site intended for vidcasts. There are a number of quality options available for streaming the videos hosted on Blip.tv. The site has a “shows” and “episodes” format, with items searchable by tags or categories. The content from one uploader, that is analogous to a channel on YouTube, is focused on a particular topic, and explores it in subsequent episodes. Metacafe has channels, but these are different from the channels on YouTube. These channels also offer very focused content, but with a broader scope. A popular channel, for example, is Movie Trailers. The web site is simply organized into “Most Viewed”, “Highest Rated” and “Rising Stars”, but the videos don’t really stand out unless you are looking for something specific. Vimeo has a lot of user-generated content, ranging on a broad range of topics, and focuses on HD content. Videos are organized into Groups, Channels and Albums.
Vimeo is very friendly when it comes to both uploading content, and streaming video, but the focus on HD means that you will need to have a pretty good internet connection. Veoh also offers HD content, but requires you to download an offline client for watching videos longer than five minutes, which is a negative point to Veoh. Veoh has channels, full length and short movies, and groups.
Dailymotion has comprehensive categories; these make it really easy to get to the kind of content you want to watch, if you are not looking for something specific. Dailymotion has the greatest number of hits for a video streaming web site after YouTube.
Blip.tv and Vimeo allow you, and even encourage you, to download videos for viewing offline and on other platforms. Veoh lets you download as long as you have a client, but the videos are not portable and take up disk space. YouTube and Dailymotion, however, do not allow you to easily download videos from the web interface itself. A download option for carrying videos you like on a mobile phone or a PMP would be a very convenient feature if it were implemented in the more popular sites, YouTube and Vimeo.
YouTube has a number of unique features that really lets it stand out. The embed option available while watching any video is convenient when it comes to posting the video on social networking sites, third-party sites and on blogs. This directs a lot of traffic to YouTube, even if the viewer is not on the main site. The ability to create playlists is another interesting feature here. The staggering number of videos on YouTube is far greater than the nearest competitor.
The benefits of quickly being able to upload videos, and having a large number of videos also make it a hassle for people on the lookout for content. Finding something refreshing, new and innovative without knowing it is already there is difficult. The policing of YouTube is at times not able to catch up to many uploads at once. The other sites are much better at censorship, simply because the staff has much less content to monitor. Though Dailymotion has less content, the chances of getting rick rolled is also proportionally lower.
YouTube also has many spam channels, ad channels, and users desperately trying to add a number of followers to their channels. This often means that a successful video on YouTube will be replicated on many channels. Although there is much repeated content on YouTube, if there is anything that you are specifically looking for, chances are that you will find it there. There are many official video channels maintained on YouTube. Of late, YouTube has also started offering HD content, where available. The web award goes to YouTube, for the sheer number of videos available, and the convenience of uploading and sharing content.