Josh (the blog)

Hey there. I’m Josh, a SydneyCanberra-based maker of Internets. I don’t update this very often.


Why breaking Vimeo’s ToS is a Bad Ideaâ„¢

Short version: Don’t do it, it’s a bad idea, host it yourself if you’re serious about business video online, host it on YouTube if you don’t yet have the resources to.

Vimeo is an amazing service. Their high quality, long format video is a great choice for people publishing creative content online, and the general awfulness of competitor YouTube’s embedding options (and lack of any premium plan) makes Vimeo’s sleek player embed look downright amazing.

The temptation for businesses, therefore, is to hijack it and just see what happens. More than a few people have written about Vimeo‘s commercial use guidelines over the last little few months – and the consensus is, rightly, that Vimeo is not the right tool here.

In short, yes, Vimeo have hosted commercial videos, and yes, some of those videos are explicitly condoned by Vimeo. However, in terms of building traffic, community, and ensuring continuity, depending on Vimeo would be really, *really *ill advised. It’s not what the service is designed to do, you have absolutely no recourse (as either a paid or unpaid client) to any decision they may make to remove your content, and there are even lingering availability (network) issues with a number of Australian ISPs.

It’s a bad idea, despite the good encode quality and beautiful player skin. It’s irrelevant that others have used it commercially with success – the reality is that unless they’ve got a commercial arrangement with Vimeo (Threadless do, Samsung did, etc. — but once you’re pulling the kind of campaign traffic they can then Vimeo might come to an arrangement with you about it!) you’re at considerable risk of having your content pulled. In the scheme of things this should matter lots more than just finding somewhere else to put your content. Sites like Vimeo are compelling because of community, and they’ve done a lot of work to integrate with Facebook, etc., that YouTube haven’t yet, or won’t because of political (business) hurdles. SEO is also a consideration – you NEVER want duplicate content, because it devalues it when you end up competing with yourself. Yet when your content could be pulled at any moment (all it takes is a user to flag a video for moderation and the whole thing comes crashing down), having it hosted on another website starts to sound compelling. Vimeo is an amazing, community driven platform that is utterly disinterested in promoting commercial interests that don’t have amazing creative – and talking heads on a video don’t even for a moment fall into that box.

If you want to do video seriously (i.e. not on YouTube, where similar problems CAN arise RE: content moderation but are much more rare in practice), then hosting your own on a content distribution network is really the only good option for business. Alternatives like exist but have average skins, average encode quality, and worse availability issues than Vimeo a lot of the time. Strongly recommend: use YouTube, it’s top-tier in terms of ease of use and much lower risk than most other externalised video hosts.

Down the track, hosting your own content on a CDN is probably the best way to do monetized video. There are some commercial options, but none of them are amazing, few of them are geared towards content-protected monetization and nearly all of them are expensive.

Alongside all these issues is the question of video storage/archival. Even for non-geeks, this shouldn’t be a big deal to get right – external terabyte hard drives cost south of $100 these days. In practice, though, continuity and archival of content is a big deal for many users – especially where content is shot ‘straight to camera’ with little other production involved (so no incidental copies are made transferring between computers, etc.). If you’re rolling your own video and not backing it up, stay clear of any service that might remove your only copy of valuable IP in the event that they realise you’re using their service.

Nevertheless, for shortlived campaigns and clearly non-profit activities – and no, your consulting business’ free advice doesn’t count – it’s probably worth the risk for many organisations. The lack of a clear regulatory framework makes Vimeo a bad choice for business, and Vimeo know it – this is not an accidental oversight on their part that you should hope means you can ‘get away with it’.

There’s been speculation that Vimeo’s parent company, IAC, is going to either reform Vimeo’s product mix or use its technology stack to develop a business offering segmented entirely from the Vimeo community. However, a quick look at the other web properties owned by IAC makes it pretty clear that it’s a B2C and social media business – with consumer focus – through and through. My take is that if you hold your breath for a B2B video solution from them you’ll sooner pass out than succeed online.