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Think you’re the anti-YouTube? Join the crowd. But Vimeo, a personal and artistic video-sharing site, is not as close to the competition as its web 2.0-compliant name would suggest (for the record, it’s an anagram of “movie” with “me” in the middle).
Vimeo started two years ago as a side project by Jakob Lodwick (left) and Zach Klein of CollegeHumor, which was bought by IAC last August. It later got the go-ahead from Barry Diller at the end of last year to become a full-time, fully funded startup within the behemoth internet holding company.
The site, described as “a kind of hipster YouTube” in a recent New York Magazine piece about young people sharing their lives online, is deeply personal by design. Unregistered visitors to the Vimeo homepage are greeted by “Videos We Like — Our users made them” and “Current activity on Vimeo — “What we’re all doing on Vimeo right now.” It’s initially unclear if “we” means just Lodwick and Klein, but click through and you’ll quickly be included in the site’s free-standing community of thousands of users.
See, for instance, this video posted by Lodwick, which seems almost too personal to embed out of its context on the site:
Fifty-four percent of adult internet users create video offline, but only 11 percent upload it online, according to Sharpe Partners. “We sort of delegate the task of making video to celebrities or people we don’t know on the internet,” says Lodwick. He and Klein say they want to recreate home videos for the internet, not television for the internet.
Sites like Grouper and even YouTube have dabbled in personal video-sharing, but nobody has figured out the tricky formula of being both personal and widely adopted. There does seem to be a need for a place to put birthing videos and dorm room party escapades out of site of the public.
However, Klein and Lodwick are advocating something a bit different, recording your life for the benefit of a small circle of virtual friends. They claim that with increased privacy features, some of which will be rolled out in a site relaunch April 16, Vimeo’s intimate feel can be preserved as it scales.
“YouTube has drastically shaped what kind of videos are being made,” says Klein. “We want to teach everyone that video isn’t just for lip-syncing Asian kids.” That isn’t enforced by rules, but rather norms created by Vimeo’s users. The sleekly designed site is oriented around each user’s friends; most importantly, say the two founders, there’s no “most viewed” list anywhere to be found.
Before getting the greenlight from IAC, Vimeo was “on life support, on one server, and crashing weekly,” says Jonathan Marcus, the IAC exec who was tasked with figuring out the conglomerate’s video strategy and decided developing a site it already owned would be more promising than M&A. He just recently started spending 100 percent of his time working on Vimeo.
IAC’s added resources — in terms of funding, “a significant commitment in line with a typical venture-backed company,” says Marcus — seem to have already made a difference. At the end of January, Vimeo raised its storage limit to 250 MB from 30 MB, driving uploads up more than 50 percent month-over-month, according Marcus. The site now has 100,000 registered users, growing 40 percent monthly, and half a million unique visitors per month.
Just one problem with being hip, fun, and different, though — aren’t you owned by Barry Diller? “He believes in our vision,” says Klein.
Vimeo balances on the thin line between quite a few such converses — making new friends but keeping things personal, trying to grow traffic and revenue while remaining artsy and personal. It’ll be interesting to see how the ideals survive this year’s expansion.