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Diller Funds Personal Video Site Vimeo

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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.

21 Responses to “Diller Funds Personal Video Site Vimeo”

  1. Vimeo has intellectual property up the wazoo, if by “intellectual property” you mean a demonstrable community of friendly folks who collaborate on projects, post quirky little clips and interact with a frightening degree of civility. Not a theoretical community, or a beta community of ten friends of the developers.

    Is it scalable? That remains to be seen.

    But as a model of how people can “play nice” with each other in online video, they’ve already got proof of concept in place.

  2. I started using Vimeo in 2004. I like it. I also like this quote from the article, “He and Klein say they want to recreate home videos for the internet, not television for the internet.”

    I’m glad they said that. What I like to say is, “I subscribe to people.” That’s what Vimeo is all about.

  3. zakkart

    I know alexa is not the best, but looking at vimeo I would say the VC bought a lame dog. That and half a million uniques a month is pretty much nothing either. In fact you can see there is a pretty huge credibility gap between the point that .5 mill uniques and 100k users. Seems fishy and so they have no unique software, no real intellectual property and no traction. Nice buy, but that was probably a 80% perhaps to keep them going.

  4. John got a bit enthusiastic. The die hard love is appreciated, but Aaron already said what I was going to say so…

    Glad to see another well designed site get some online love!

    (Jakob – your vidd that’s embedded here is really well done! Now I have to hit your site and go watch more…)

  5. While I appreciate John’s enthusiasm for Viddyou, that’s not an accurate understanding. Neither Vimeo or Viddyou are ripoffs of each other in any way. I love the work that Vimeo is doing, and they’ve been doing it longer than we have anyway.

    We’re both have a different approach towards trying to help people express themselves online through video. Congrats on their recent funding round!

    Off topic: I love the video embedded in this post – it’s so cool!

  6. This write up is more what Viddyou does than Vimeo. I think Newteevee compared Viddyou to WordPress oddly which I didn’t see when I checked out their site. I like both a lot because they’re very pleasant to look at, but I see Vimeo as appealing to the anti-Youtube hipster crowd that needs the online exclusivity. Catering to that exclusivity isn’t a bad thing. It’s same as what Virb is to Myspace. I can see many in SF’s Mission district loving the site and featuring gobs of track bike and fixie scene videos. Vimeo also appeals to my designer side, but still view it as a stripped down and better designed Youtube that’s slightly more personal (for now).

  7. It’s sad when a good idea needs to be blatantly ripped off by another company. This site is a pretty blatant ripoff of viddyou, and viddyou seems to do a better job at it than these guys do. Only difference is that viddyou’s UI is cleaner.

  8. Vimeo does an excellent job of fostering community and civility – more power to them. I haven’t spent as much time there as I’d like lately which is a shame, because it really is the kind of site where you get back what you put into it. It’s one of the “nicest neighborhoods” in online video.

  9. While I like very much the idea of having a site that focuses on personal and artistic videos, I believe this is still not the answer to the fact that only 11% of the people creating content upload it. One of the issues is privacy, and a lot of people do not care to share their content with the whole world. They want to share this with friends and family only.
    We at Quickeo ( have focused on this aspect, and on making multimedia content easily to assemble into something pleasant to look at on the receiving end.
    If you give it a try I am interested in feedback…

  10. Vimeo seems to fill the void left by likes of YouTube. There will be some good demand for a service that is both personal and sharable to a limited circle of friends. But demand for this service is limited It is a typical long tail story. Vimeo will happily coexist along with YouTube etc