For those interested in a helpful little review, check out these ten video sharing services compared. But this review is something of a signpost for me, because it points to the ways digital video, networked computers, and social networking software have all evolved over the past decade, for better and for worse.
I find the rubric itself interesting: “appeal” and “interface” are standard, but “editing” and “sharing” are especially telling for this convergence. Editing has always been the kind of thing you do before you think about distribution. From the early days of cinema through the arrival of digital video with Avid and Final Cut, producers finalized their production before seeking a distributor. Not to take these limited editing features offered on sites like Jumpcut too far, but having access to iMovie-like editing online Ajax style provides a level of flexibility some producers may find helpful, especially if they’re rolled into a free online package.
In addition, and perhaps more importantly, having a variety of easy ways to distribute–or, when money is not the central component, “share”–your production with others has become the hub of a rapidly expanding set of social networking practices that takes all comers: family home movies, indy film makers and posers, viral marketing attempts, and just stuff to share. That a site comparing video distribution websites needs to compare “sharing” as well as “interface” shows how fundamental the social aspect of the internet has become.
Of course, sharing is the strength of some sites and merely an afterthought or not a feature at all of others. But for us users looking at the field all at once, the variety of ways to share stands out as one of the most crucial aspects of the lot.
I have to wonder, though, whether all this excitement and euphoria about “Web 2.0” feels a little too much like our circa-2001 euphoria for dot coms. My sense is that much of these startups today are the same as those of five years ago, in that they encourage us to imagine a world in which consumer demand does two things it has never done before: push out further and further with limitless boundaries, and keep moving rapidly over time. There have of course been occasionals spikes of what feel like sustained periods of expansion and multiplicity, but these are always quickly subsumed by the equilibrium and univocality. Don’t be surpised if two years from now even two of the sites reviewed here are still around. But even the faintest whiff of money will bring all the ideas out of their little holes, no matter how half-baked they are. I wish them all good luck, but I’m not holding my breath.