In this moment I am feeling old. Reviewing something I wrote recently on this site I scrolled to the bottom and saw suggested posts (my own) and clicked on one. It took me to something I wrote a few years ago and included a video. When I reached the part where the video should be I saw an error message telling me that the video is no longer available. This has become somewhat common over the past year. The reason it has become common is due to the impermanent nature of the Internet.
The first site I started uploading my videos to was Google. It was the best/easiest way to get my videos on the Internet in 2006 and although not many people watched them they were seen. It was neat. Around that time I started hearing about YouTube from a friend. I checked it out and it looked awful. Most everything I saw was people posting goofy, ugly videos or talking to the camera. Not at all what I was trying to do. A year or two passed, YouTube was purchased by Google and suddenly that’s where my videos lived. Only it still wasn’t great. Another friend mentioned Vimeo and I checked it out.
If YouTube was where you uploaded that video of the duck slipping on a frozen pond (that you shot from your car using your phone as your mother drove past) Vimeo was where Filmmakers (capital f) were posting their work. The site was sleek, it didn’t have advertisements and the video quality was vastly superior. Once I started uploading to the site and looking at the controls a free plan offered I was amazed anyone bothered with anything else. It was a great place to be on the Internet.
Not long afterwards I upgraded to the lowest tier paid plan which would allow me to upload 5GB of data a week. Which at the time was decent. I shot all kinds of videos (in truth mostly of my children and family and never intended for the public) uploaded them to the site and I was happy.
I was also happy to discover the work of filmmakers on the site. In addition to the Staff Pick’s section which was usually terrific it wasn’t hard to search and find random films to enjoy. In short it was a great site that many people were using to share their work. I discovered many filmmakers and saw wonderful films and the site was free and easy to use.
I’m not sure when it all went wrong. At some point Vimeo shifted and people starting using it less. It became harder to find films. It became harder to access and organize my own films on the site. The customization and controls I had enjoyed became more difficult to use. Simultaneously YouTube improved. People were posting things there that were of excellent quality and interesting. Suddenly there were videos that were instructional or educational and about topics I needed (or wanted) help with.
For the longest time I would watch videos where people would use Final Cut Pro and they would access features (or shortcuts) that I did not know about. I would always wonder how people knew about these things as they are not obvious or intuitive. Part of me wondered if they all read the manual. I certainly didn’t. I didn’t even know there was a manual you could download from Apple until 2021.
Then it became clear that people were posting videos on anything and everything. Entire channels were devoted to tips and tricks for FCPX and editing in general. More importantly people were making money. For the longest time Vimeo offered a “tip jar” on their site. I had never opted to include it because almost no one saw what I posted and the people who did were usually friends or family. I knew from chatty filmmakers like Philip Bloom that the “tip jar” generated little to no income as he was quite vocal about such things. Suddenly people on YouTube seemed to be wealthy.
They seemed to be wealthy and not overly active. Or interesting. Or creating much of substance. It was strange and confusing and self-contained. Again I’m not entirely sure when these things happened. One day Vimeo was the place to be and then suddenly it was YouTube. Much like when I started streaming video content from Amazon it started with downloading third party software (Silverlight? I know Real Player was in the mix for a bit) and then one day you were able to do it directly via the site. One day I was clicking on links that took me from Facebook’s website to another and the next Facebook had a browser built into the site and I never left.
I don’t know when all these changes happened exactly only that when I become aware of them everything had already changed. Over the past few years I’ve uploaded my videos to both Vimeo and YouTube, keeping the personal ones private. Whereas before the quality of the videos on Vimeo was superior somewhere around 2020 I noticed they looked the same. YouTube is free to use with no weekly limitation on how much I can upload. For $60 a year Vimeo permitted me to upload 5GB a week. If I uploaded a video and realized it contained a mistake I would correct the mistake and re-upload. If the file size was too large I would have to wait for a week for the reset.
I am writing about this in great detail because I feel that these changes are representative with how the Internet has changed over the past eighteen years. The number of websites I have been a part of, as a contributor or user, that I can no longer remember the names of is quite large. I accept change on the Internet it’s just odd to reflect on the changes of using Vimeo as it clearly chose to become something else (but didn’t much bother to tell its users). Other writers have speculated on the reasons why this change came about and I don’t think I can add much to that conversation as I was unaware.
What I can speak to is how strange it is ending this paid relationship with Vimeo. I was forewarned, luckily, as to what would happen when I cancelled my plan. Again, Mr. Bloom, tested these waters and shared his experience. He made it known that Vimeo would purge your videos once you downgraded. Part of how I used their site had been as back up storage for videos I did not wish to lose. I’ve had hard drives fail over the years and, most recently, discovered that Backblaze, the service I pay to back up my data, has more than one plan. It turns out if you have the wrong one they can’t recover certain data (strong work fellas!).
There must have been significant negative feedback directed to Vimeo as when I cancelled my plan (which was a process as annoying as cancelling with Verizon recently) I was given multiple warnings that my videos would be removed and that I needed to download everything if I wish to save it. Silly me though, I forget I had been linking to these videos from this site since I started posting. Which is why I keep finding I have posts with video links to nowhere.
I don’t pretend to know what the future will hold, if any of these sites offering “free” services will continue to do so. Although I am not a business person I have been alive for a while now and I’ve seen how businesses change and adapt or fail. It makes perfect sense of a company like Vimeo to try something different from their considerably larger competitor but they way they have done this seems self-defeating. I know for most people the days of being loyal to a company are long gone but I’m someone who still looks for that and yearns for it. There is a comfort in familiar, dependable things.