Just as the Hoover brand name is synonymous with vacuum cleaners, YouTube has become the de facto standard in online video. But only a couple of years ago it was merely one of many services offering video streaming to the masses - and it still is. The purchase of YouTube by Google in 2006 may have helped propel the site to its current status as one of the top five Web destinations in the world. Nevertheless, there are numerous alternative sites you can use to host your video content, and they may well be better for your particular needs. So, starting this week, we explore the other options, and how to take best advantage of them.
YouTube's biggest strength is the site's sheer volume. It streams over 100 million videos everyday, and that means virtually any video about any subject will find someone to watch it. This is a classic example of the ‘Long Tail', where not just the big hits see the traffic, but drastically reduced costs and a global audience mean anything can be posted and everything gets some visibility. However, YouTube has its weaknesses, revolving around two key areas: video quality, and the lack of a payment system.
For most of its life, YouTube has streamed video at a relatively lowly resolution, usually based around just 320 x 240 pixels, and with a 10-minute duration limitation. Whilst this is fine for video blogging, more creatively cinematic work loses much of its value at this lowly frame size and length. More than one YouTube alternative has taken advantage of this deficiency to differentiate itself by offering much higher resolutions. DivX's Stage6 was one of the best, supporting resolutions up to 1,920 x 1,080 until it folded in early 2008.