- YouTube. YouTube has by far the most amount of "paperwork" you can fill out before you can begin uploading, but there are only a couple of required fields, and the opportunity for categorization goes deeper than most. There are a ton of boxes to click and drop-down menus to choose from, including a geographical map of where the video was taken and privacy controls to let you tweak what others can do with your video.
- Viddler was the best of breed for its interface, which is all business. It lets you pick your video and start uploading before filling out any forms. When it's actually time to fill it in, tagging and categorization are simple and intuitive.
- Vimeo. Vimeo's uploader was a cinch to use. You can start uploading your video file without even having to give it a name.
- Facebook. Very easy to get going, unless you've got a lot of people in the video. Facebook's prowess over the others is that you can tag people who are in it, which doesn't take long, using the built-in search-as-you-type box. It also lets you start uploading before filling anything out. The one caveat is that you have to sign up for Facebook first, but you're on there anyway, right?
- Veoh. Simple setup, though like others, you have to do the naming, tagging, and categorization before beginning the upload.
YouTube may be the best-known mainstream video-hosting site on the Web, but it's certainly not winning any awards for the visual quality of its content. YouTube's creators have said higher-resolution videos are on the way, but until then, there are a handful of other services that do a much better job at making your uploaded video look a little less Webby.
There's another problem at hand: size. Video files are big, and a lot of the most popular services place tedious size restrictions. Those restrictions mean that you are either going to have to compress your video through third-party software before uploading or make smaller, lower-quality source recordings to begin with.
We've handpicked four services that have pretty lenient size limits and that don't force you to download software clients just to graduate up to the higher caps. To be fair, we're also comparing all four to the YouTube status quo.
So here's the deal. We took a source video of just less than 2 minutes at full VGA quality at 30 frames per second. It came off a recent-model Canon digital camera that saved it as an approximately 200MB AVI file. Your results for source material may vary, but based on the popularity charts on Flickr, Canons rule the roost both overall and in the point-and-shoot camera category, so we felt that it was a good control.
It's worth noting that Casio has several models of digital cameras with "YouTube capture" modes, though these are simply recording video in MPEG-4 H.264 at smaller resolutions, which takes up less space. You can accomplish a similar feat, albeit using a different video codec, if your camera has a "compact" or "e-mail ready" video-capturing mode.
Next, we uploaded to each site using its Web uploader. Not some standalone software application, but the interface that any Joe Shmo has to use when adding videos to the site.
The three things we're testing today are:
1) Ease of interface when having to add titles, tags, and other information
2) Real-world speed of upload
3) End quality
1. Ease of use.How easy it is to navigate the uploader and add things such as title, tags, and categories?
2. Real-world upload time.
We've rated each site on its feel from slow, medium, to fast along with a time of how long each site took to ingest the file. This is based on a standard, domestic Comcast cable modem connection (8MB/s). At the time, we had an instant-messaging application running, along with a browser window that had about 10 tabs open, and no other concurrent uploads or downloads.
Vimeo (1 hr 19 min.) Vimeo was the second-longest to upload, though it provides a simple 100 percent counter to let you know how far it's gotten.
Veoh (1 hr 21 min.) Veoh was the slowest of the bunch. You better have something good to do, or leave it going overnight.
YouTube (42 min.) Not bad, but not great, either. YouTube also has a multivideo uploader that lets you load your videos in batches.
Viddler (29 min.) Viddler was by far the fastest of the uploaders. Your results will vary, though.
Facebook (36 min.) Facebook slurped up our video quickly, and it even gives an estimation for when the video will be done.
A picture's worth a thousand words, so here are full-quality screencaps from all five services, including a baseline of the source video in its native resolution. Since the various players either stretch or resize the source content to fit the player, black space has been added around the outside to balance. The services have been ordered from largest to smallest, starting with the source material.
Note: To compare, just mouse over the name of each service below the picture. It might take a second or two to load, depending on your connection.
For smaller-resolution stuff that hovers around VGA, you're better off with Veoh. Veoh manages to retain a good amount of detail in your video stream, as long as you're willing to put up with the lengthly uploading time. If you're lucky enough to be the proud owner of an HD-capable camcorder or digital camera, pass go and check out Vimeo, which is the only service that's ready, willing, and able to handle HD video, if you've got it. Now go forth and upload.
2/5 Update: Several users have noted the similarities in Veoh and Vimeo, and it's definitely a close call. I stand by my judgment of Veoh, as I've listed in the comments, but the difference will be negligible for most users. We're definitely planning on doing a follow-up with another crop of services, so if you've got a favorite that fits the specs for our test file, then leave it in the comments or shoot me an e-mail.
2/6 Update: I was lucky enough to get some time to talk about these tests on the News.com podcast with Erica Ogg earlier today. You can read the show notes and get links to the mentioned stories on this page, or listen to the entire thing with the embedded player below. If you like what you hear, you can also become a subscriber of the show via iTunes. One thing to note is I managed to mix up Vimeo with Viddler when talking about the two quality winners, so keep that in mind.