eBaum’s World relaunches, wants to leave the past behind

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Here’s some news that will bring back memories: eBaum’s World, once the premiere site for funny videos online, relaunched this week, hoping to attract viewers and content creators in search for an alternative to YouTube(s GOOG).

The new layout not only makes the site look like it finally arrived in the 21st century, it’s also a final step toward leaving its troubled past behind.

eBaum’s World was launched in 1998 by Eric Baumann and quickly became the go-to place for teenage humor and viral video fun. However, the site also garnered a reputation for hosting a number of infringing videos. In 2007, it was bought by a company called Handheld Entertainment, which was initially financed by Larry Page’s brother Carl Page.

Handheld had big plans for integrating eBaum’s World with its ZVUE mobile video player — but those eventually fell apart in the midst of technological and financial challenges, which included a delisting from the NASDAQ, as well as an ousting of eBaum’s founder and the site’s original staff. There were also numerous lawsuits, and things were generally not going well.

Handheld eventually folded, but eBaum’s World was still going strong. The site was spun off, and was essentially on life support for some time, with a bare minimum staffing of four people manning the deck. Two-and-a-half years ago, things started to look up, and the newly formed owner Viumbe made some additional hires.

Since then, it has essentially been chugging along, slowly growing to 35 million monthly video streams and a staff of 13. Part of their job was trying to deal with all the skeletons in the company’s closet. “We had to clean up the community a little bit, which was kind of rough and tumble,” Viumbe Product Manager Zac Selmon told me during a phone call Tuesday.

So how does Ebaum’s World fit into today’s online video world? Selmon told me that if YouTube was a major record company, Ebaum would be a humble indie label. “There is a place for a more curated experience,” he said, exlaining that the site has been investing in editorial to build out this kind of curation. Ebaum also teamed up with YouTube comedian Boogie2988 for the launch and hopes to bring others on the site in the future.

But a big part of the company’s efforts is still spent on educating people that things have changed. eBaum is now playing fair, which means taking down uploads when prompted by rights holders. “We’re citizens of the internet,” said Selmon. “The last thing we want is for someone to feel like we’re screwing them over.”

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