Recently, the question “Why did YouTube succeed where Vimeo failed?” was posted at Q&A website Quora. Not surprisingly, because Quora is notoriously frequented by a few of the Internet’s most prominent taste-makers and executives, the question was answered by Vimeo co-founder Josh Abramson. In the response reposted at Forbes, Abramson gives a surprisingly transparent response as to why Vimeo will never be comparable to YouTube in terms of revenue and traffic. Abramson explains:
“In hindsight, we would have been smart to separate our businesses and raise money for Vimeo on its own so that we could have taken the big risk required without jeopardizing the rest of our company.”
Essentially, Abramson states that when Vimeo first launched, the founders feared the legal and financial repercussions that could rise from a non-regulated video-sharing site. Abramson goes to on to explain that with YouTube’s relaxed upload limitations, they allowed themselves the ability to host almost any content. The Vimeo co-founder recollects when he first realized Vimeo’s various upload restriction were a mistake, saying:
“The moment that I finally realized something was fundamentally changing about how people would share and discover video online was when the Lazy Sunday SNL video exploded and took YouTube up with it. Our restrictions on Vimeo did not allow for a video like this to make it online.”
Vimeo Does What YouTube Cannot
Even though Abramson’s response is genuinely honest and receptive, does this mean that Vimeo really “failed?” Vimeo has become a bastion for independent video creators. While YouTube is sometimes seen as simply a place for home videos and parody songs, Vimeo is viewed as a place for filmmakers and artists. With its advertisements for Gillette and Old Spice, YouTube has cemented itself as the Megaplex Theater of digital video with 35 IMAX screens all showing “Ice Age 23” and “The Devil Wears Prada Part Deux.” Vimeo, on the other hand, is the Web Generation’s art house theater where content is appreciated (hopefully) on its artistic merits.
Both types of video-sharing sites must exist to supplement one another. While some YouTube partners are reportedly making six figure incomes, the road to Vimeo success is paved with reputation, and never gold. There must always be a distance between these types of art. As YouTube creators embrace the type of content that receives the most views (parodies, comedy, vlogs), the typical Vimeo creator tends to make content that promotes the artistry of film production. If YouTube did not exist as the behemoth site it currently is, there would be no example for Vimeo creators to rebel against.
YouTube and Vimeo are equally necessary in the digital video ecosystem. While Vimeo may not be considered a success in terms of revenue of sheer traffic when compared to YouTube, it still exists as an outlet for freely distributed digital artistry.