I have some home movies I want to share online but my Comcast account doesn't have enough space to store the movies. How can I share my movies publicly without needing my own Web site?
I tend to host all my files myself, but that's because I have plenty of Web space and bandwidth available as a direct result of the Web being my primary livelihood. Hosting video files can become prohibitively expensive, especially if they prove to be popular. Video takes up a large amount of space and the bandwidth required for many people downloading a video file potentially pushes you into the realm of broke in a very short amount of time. Just recently two free services are emerging to help address this issue, which means many more are likely to follow. If the files are something that requires a guarantee of availability, going with a free service may not be the answer because there's no uptime accountability associated with free. In addition to free services, there are a couple low cost alternatives that won't run more than $10/month in most cases, giving you some level of accountability as a paying customer if the service goes down.
One of the places I successfully hosted video files in the past is Neptune Mediashare, which charges an annual fee for hosting video and photos. The plus side of using Neptune is they are integrated into Windows Movie Maker and several other video editing applications, making it easy to publish your movies. The downside is paying an annual fee. And if you stop paying the annual fee, you lose the hosting you already have, without providing an easy means for getting the movies out of the service. They also have an annoying Flash interface everyone must navigate in order to share and watch movies. The smallest package size is $59 for 150MB or $99 for 500MB, which might seem pricey for anyone who just wants to share movies of the grandkids.
Mac users have the option of getting a .MAC account from Apple with 125MB of storage and a number of other features for $99 annually. I used the service the first year it was available but didn't find myself using many of the features because I had other options for online storage and have my own email domain. If you are a Mac user, this is one of the better deals for a comprehensive solution for easily hosting your iPhoto albums, small movie files, podcasts and a small Website. The other bundled features, like software and an online backup service easily justify the fee in this case and it integrates well with OS X, which is a major plus.
OurMedia.org launched a service for storing audio and video files via the Internet Archive recently, with the idea being to eliminate the problem most of us might have in being able to pay the hosting bill associated with publishing large audio and video files. I set up an account with OurMedia, but haven't used it yet because I found the interface to be somewhat frustrating. You need two separate login accounts, which is not a friendly user experience. Associating my existing Internet Archive account with a newly created OurMedia account resulted in failure on my first few attempts. I'm also not completely sold on the idea of a 24-hour waiting period for content to appear on the live site. I don't like waiting and I'd really like to see a multi-tiered approval process where at the outset individuals find themselves required to wait until they've proven that they aren't going to upload other people's copyrighted works (or offensive material). After the proving period, users would get an innocent until proven guilty treatment where posted content goes live almost immediately and isn't taken down unless there's a valid claim of copyright infringement by an outside party. One stipulation of the OurMedia service is any content posted on the site must fall under some kind of Creative Commons license. Still I'm optimistic these relatively minor problems with OurMedia will get worked out and the resulting experience will improve to the point where anyone can successfully upload and share the video and audio they want.
Google just announced the Google Video service, which ties back to their Gmail service. To Google's credit, the Google Video site recognized I already have a Gmail account and made it easy for me to log in. I downloaded their upload tool and was uploading video within a few minutes of agreeing to the terms of service. From the usability perspective, Google Video already gets my vote as being a service to recommend because of the easy means of uploading files to their servers. Like many things Google launches, the Google Video service is currently in beta with no official timeframe for going live. At this juncture, I don't know when my uploaded video will be live on Google Video, which complicates relying on the service for distribution at this point. When my video does go live, I have some interesting options for sharing it. I can make the video available only within specific countries, I can charge for access and I can make it so I'm the only one who has access to the video file. I don't know if I will ever use those features, but having the option is nice. Google does an additional smart thing, requiring information about the video files like title, description and related persons, adding searchable relevance to the files.
None of these options is the perfect solution to the video hosting problem. Having ultimate control over your content by hosting it yourself is the most flexible route, but also the most time and cost intensive way to go. Using low-fee hosted solutions eliminates some flexibility, but mostly streamlines the process of making video available to the widest audience. Free solutions definitely offer potential, but aren't ready for anyone but geeks at this point, because the process required to get files posted is frustrating at best and leaves more questions than answers. If you've got the patience to deal with the imperfections of OurMedia, it may be the best option at the moment because it offers unlimited space and is supported by a foundation that will likely be around for generations. As time goes on, they should get the kinks worked out and become a seriously viable solution for hosting multimedia long term.