WordPress just announced their new video hosting service, VideoPress. (Primary URL at wordpress.tv, announcement and details currently on videopress.com). They've been working on this for a while, and initially announced this on the 11th with a post to their main blog.

'So,' you're thinking, 'WordPress are good at the text business, but what about video?' Well, if you're a content creator who has 1) more money than sense or 2) just can't be bothered to manage your own media hosting, this could be an ideal solution for you. Here's their announcement and introduction video (turn on HD in the top-right corner if you can afford the bandwidth and CPU cycles:

While it's shaping up to be really quite costly for the early adopters, they could be on to a good thing early here. How so? Well, they can leverage their existing grid computing setup to serve multimedia content and keep a tight rein on how it's delivered. Hopefully they can wrangle the carriage and peering costs down to manageable levels as the service scales. You also have the good karma that comes from having all of your multimedia hosted in the same place - so if you like easy, click-click-done solutions, it's a safe bet.

To add the VideoPress service, you just log into your WordPress.com account, go to your WP blog's dashboard, and add the service from the Upgrades category in the left-hand menu... And that's just about it.

Ok, so it's snappy to setup. What else? What about the technical features and costs? Let's dig a little deeper. While this is evidently an important first step for WP as they branch out and upgrade their service portfolio, there's room for improvement. They've developed most aspects very well, but there are a few caveats. Initial impressions are good; there's no framerate conversion of uploaded content, you can embed and enable HD playback if your content is high enough resolution - right from the embedded player - and they also support filesizes >1Gb, so yes, you can upload your 720p masterpiece if you really want to.

WP say it's quite simple to get going:
  1. Get a blog on WordPress.com
  2. Go to your upgrades page
  3. PayPal your way to happiness.
However, when that final step involves coughing up 59.97 credits, at the princely sum of $1 per credit, it's certainly not the cheapest way to host your HD material. Plus, there are a number of rather good competitors in the market already:
  • Blip.tv (great quality, an intuitive interface and a personal favourite)
  • Vimeo (one of the prettiest, and has a great community spirit)
  • DailyMotion (just plain ubiquitous and home to metric tons of content) and
  • the photographer-oriented SmugMug.
Vimeo is probably the next best service in terms of mindspace, quality and good vibes from the user community, so it makes sense to compare their featuresets. The best way to compare these two new services is with a matrix, so let's get cracking. All costs are in their original currency (US Dollars) to make comparison easier.

Also, don't discount Blip's and Vimeo's respective free services. Blip's basic package only encodes to FLV, and overlays small text ads in the video window. Vimeo places ads on the page under the main video window, but the videos themselves remain untouched.

Vimeo's free service is also a great way to dip your toes in the water; you get 500Mb of storage, 1 HD video upload a week and all the other good stuff (minus HD embedding, reserved for their Plus customers), and it's a cinch to upgrade.

YouTube finally joined the 21st century late last year, with first HQ (I fondly refer to it as RQ, Regular Quality) and then proper HD - 1280x720 H.264 video making its formal debut earlier this year, after the softlaunch. (remember all that &fmt=18 nonsense?) Of course, YouTube has to be THE Number One video sharing web site, but Google is pumping money into it and still not turning a profit. Aside from the mass popularity (and huge amount of pisspoor quality content), you may decide that you'd like a little more panache, a little more style, for your multimedia content hosting.

Of course, there's nothing to stop you putting your content on every service around - and there are even some analytics companies who'll do that legwork for you, and also let you gather some useful viewer statistics for pretty good rates if you're planning on producing the next hit web video series.

Having weighed up the pros and cons of WordPress hosting, I'd say that it's a welcome progression from the WP team. They've obviously worked on this tech behind the scenes for a while, using their experience with their larger corporate clients to work the kinks out of the system before going public. However, I still personally prefer Vimeo and Blip.tv - they're better value for money and you can do just as much with them.

VideoPress has some nice automation (such as playlist generation for iTunes, Miro et al, and up to three definitions of video automatically prepared) but this is nothing standout on its own. Also, you pay a hefty premium for storage. Obviously Vimeo and the others are overselling to an extent, but given the sheer size of HD content, you'd be better off doing one of two things if you produce a lot of HD:
  1. Buy a Vimeo Plus account and get 5Gb a week for your uploads
  2. Buy your own web hosting, use one of the many free video encoder apps and stream your content with one of the several popular embedded Flash players
  3. ... Download the VideoPress opensource framework, install it on your own server, and use that!

Yes, you read me right - the source code for VideoPress is open-source and freely available. However, there are caveats. WP themselves make it plain that "this plugin is different from other plugins because it cannot be used 'out of the box.' It is intended for self-hosted large scale WordPress MU sites that want to develop their own customized video solutions." Aside from that, it also requires one fileserver and one dedicated video transcoder, and 'considerable amounts of PHP coding and system admin skills (skillz?) to implement and deploy.'

Well, don't let that put you off. Where there's a will there's a way, and I suspect that before long, an ad-supported service using the VP framework might just surface and offer some of the VideoPress Premium features for gratis. Who knows?

I'm not going to do a blow-by-blow comparison of all the other mentioned HD video hosting services, because people with far more time and resources have already done just that. However, VideoPress aside, they all cost nothing to try out - and I strongly suggest you try each of them to see which one fits your needs. They all have premium services, and they all have their pros and cons. But when you see such achingly gorgeous design as can be found on the Vimeo web site (even their login page is a work of art), you'd have to be made of stone to not appreciate the work which has gone into that site.

I would always suggest trying out Vimeo as one of your first candidates, and its ability to offer one HD upload a week is the ideal way for most content producers to demo the service. However, for the person who desires full and seamless integration and consolidation above all else (including value for money at the moment), VideoPress might be just what they've been waiting for.


  1. Loyalekoinu said...
    So going for a service like Vimeo where they give you a limited number of plays in HD is a great option for blogs going into the thousands of users. How about the fact that Videopress encodes videos at a much higher bitrate (3.5mbps) which is better then Vimeos which is around (1.5). Take into consideration that videopress is for people shooting a lot of video for their blog. A one time fee of $60 for 3 gigs of upload space, and the ability to tack on as much storage for a prorated fee is great. Especially considering you dont have to worry about bandwidth. 500 Vimeo plays may be difficult to do if you dont have a good enough show to draw the needed customer base, but if it is I would hate to see how much vimeo charges.Size wise you only get 1 gig upload with 2 gigs total a month. The max you can upload is 1 gig. Understanding how large HD files can be, i would rather upload at max resolution to be down converted by them. Videopress starts with the basic 3 gig storage limitation, and at an added cost (cheap) you can add increments from 5 -25 gigs. Instead of compressing for vimeo to fit into their 1 gig plus member quota and then have it compressed again, making the video look noticeably worse. If your running a podcast off your site, you could fiddle with vimeo's rss feed, or you could do a one click submit to Itunes and Miro with videopress. Also, Vimeo in their TOS states that anything you upload is pretty much theirs even though it is stated as being your property they can use it how they want. Something that isn't in the videopress TOS. If your any kind of serious about video blogging you would understand how much of a service your actually getting. Especially since your locked into Vimeo's branded player, unlike videopress which player is open source and modifiable, you can even take the streams out of the video and host your player elsewhere using their CDN (which cost a lot of money for Automatic). If your going to compare apples to oranges, there really is no competition. Both are equally goo at what they do, and have their own purpose for their own user base. While I don't work for Automatic, they provide a stellar carefree service, Vimeo does as well. However, if you want optimum quality and the free bandwidth I'd take Videopress anyday!
    Christopher said...
    Hi Jaymes,

    Appreciate your thoughts. (are you a former Vimeo Plus user perhaps? ;)

    re your comments about serious videobloggers - surely hosting your own content on a generous shared hosting package... If you're going to get serious yourself, perhaps signing up for CDN distribution with someone like the media-centric LibSyn or a more general company like SparkCache might work out more economically? That way you're also not tied into using particular formats and/or players and can deliver what you what exactly how you want to :)

    I think a review of CDNs is needed next! Whatcha think?
    Loyalekoinu said...
    I agree, a CDN review would be excellent! A lot of the reviews I have seen are really one-sided articles written by the CDN themselves. However, thats not to say they all do it. Unfortunately, there are a lot of powerful Content Delivery Networks out there, but the ones offering prices in the range of end users are significantly less. CDN's like Akamai and Limelight require you be paying at least a minimum of $2000 dollars per year so they are out of the question for most people getting into the video realm. However, Amazon Cloud front, Tiny CDN (which uses cloud front), Cachefly, and a few others are fairly cheap. If your a video professional I would say get connected with a CDN, look at what they offer because your business depends on good looking video. There are plenty of options out there. As I see it though, for those who are pretty stringent on quality Videopress is higher quality but a little more expensive than Vimeo which has a bit of quality and allows for more content at particular sizes.

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