Whatever happened to the YouTube killers?

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The last few days brought back some memories for any veteran of the online video space: Earlier this week, Orange acquired the remaining 51 percent of local video hoster Dailymotion. Then on Thursday, AllThingsD’s Peter Kafka reported that The Collective has bought Metacafe. That means it’s time to say goodbye to two of the last remaining independent video sites.

They’re joining a growing number of web video ventures that once set out to compete with YouTube but never came close. Some of them had to shut down, others changed hands. Some are trying their luck at a new direction while others seem stuck: forgotten but never taken offline.

It’s unclear yet what exactly will happen to Dailymotion and Metacafe. But we figured that their sale was a big enough occasion for online video to take a little stroll down memory lane and figure out, whatever did happen to all those other sites that attempted to compete with, if not kill YouTube?

  • eBaum’s World used to be the original online video site. Launched in 1998 as a collection random collection of teenage humor, eBaum’s World quickly became the go-to place for viral videos. However, the site also became the center of copyright infringement controversies, and eventually was bought by a company called Handheld Entertainment in 2007. The new owner ended up laying off eBaum’s founder and all of the site’s staff in 2009 after it had become less and less relevant.
  • Veoh, launched in 2005, tried to combine user-submitted videos with premium content. However, those plans came to a screeching halt when Universal sued Veoh for copyright infringement in 2007. The lawsuit went on for four years, but its huge costs eventually forced Veoh into bankrupcy in 2010 and the site’s assets were sold to Israel-based Qlipso a few months later. The irony of it all is that Veoh eventually won its legal fight in 2011.
  • Blip.tv, founded in 2005, also started out as a YouTube competitor, but failed to keep up as Google’s video site grew to gigantic proportions. Blip.tv changed course and became a network for serialized web content in early 2011, and eventually rebranded as Blip in February.
  • Revver was founded in 2004. It became better known in part because of its co-founder Ian Clarke, who also invented the anti-censorship technology Freenet. Revver briefly was home to the videos of the pioneering web series lonelygirl15, and was one of the first sites to share ad revenue with its uploaders. However, the site’s approach to paying any uploader with enough views quickly led to lots of uploaders gaming the site, causing the overall quality of the videos to deteriorate. Revver changed hands for $5 million in 2008. A number of content creators left the site after the acquisition because it allegedly failed to make due on payments. Revver’s website finally went offline some time last year.
  • Joost was supposed to compete with YouTube by concentrating on quality content, hoping to become what we now recognize as Hulu years before Hulu itself launched. The site was founded by Skype’s co-founders Janus Friis and Niklas Zennstrom in 2006, and initially used a P2P client to distribute videos. For many users, downloading the software was too much of a barrier to entry, but the service was also never able to aquire enough content to be relevant. Joost sold to ad network Adconion in 2009 and eventually shut down earlier this year.
  • 12seconds.tv pioneered the idea of personal video sharing with short clips, something that has come back into fashion in recent years. The site had a devoted following, but never really broke through, and eventually shut down in 2010.
  • Dailymotion, founded in 2005, successfully established itself as a local YouTube competitor in France and has made some attempts to grow its user base in the U.S. as well. Orange bought 49 percent of the site in early 2011, and acquired the rest of it this week. It’s likely that Dailymotion will power Orange’s IPTV efforts.
  • Metacafe, founded in 2003, also started out with a YouTube-like concept, but more recently shifted towards professionally-produced content, albeit with a slightly different audience than Blip. The site’s Metacafe Entertainment Network, launched last September, focuses squarely on Spike TV viewers, with categories promising Babes, Video Games and Action Sports. The Collective, better known for managing YouTube talents like FreddieW, hasn’t commented on the acquisition reports yet, but it’s likely that the site will further concentrate on serialized content and ad sales, leaving user-generated content to YouTube.
  • Vimeo, founded in late 2004, is the lone example for a site that has been successful at carving out a niche for user-generated videos next to YouTube. The site has become a go-to destination for indie film makers, and was bought by IAC in 2006. There were some rumors that IAC was going to sell parts of Vimeo at a $300 million valuation earlier this year, IAC’s chairman and CEO Bary Diller has denied any plans to sell Vimeo.

Image courtesy of Flickr user schmilblick.

Did we forget anyone important? Feel free to share your memories in the comments!

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