One of the hardest things to do is sort out where and how to host videos.
The problems The problems
Let’s be direct here, videos are still one of the messiest parts of hosting websites, because of two major reasons:
- Multiple formats
I used to have “File size” on there, but these days with most of us having at least 5G of space on shared hosts, it’s not an issue. The other two are big problems. Since it’s 2014, I’m sticking to only HTML5 video stuff right now. It’s backwards compatible enough. If someone’s on IE8 or earlier, they’re left in the cold, which I feel bad about, but that was released in 2009 and while I know my last job was struggling to get off it in 2012, my ‘workaround’ was to include a line below all videos that says “Can’t view this? Click here…”
Got an iOS device? Great, you can’t play Flash, which means the smallest compression out there (flv) won’t work. There are a lot of different formats. Just have a look at the breakdown of HTML5 video browser support for a moment. It gets messier when you’re an Open Source advocate and you realize how jacked that makes you with iOS, which is pretty much ‘MP4 or GTFO’ these days.
Don’t forget that Firefox doesn’t like MP4s either (see the screenshot to the right) so now you must include a webm or ogg file to make that happy. This means, in order to get the broadest audience, you need to include at least two formats of video. This touches back to the ‘File size’ issue that I don’t really think is much of an issue these days.
This is a hassle since most of us don’t have a lot of great tools to take our amazing video of ducks and turn it into these other formats. I use Miro Converter or Handbrake much of the time to convert things, but by no means are these profession quality. Hang on to that thought, I’ll be back.
Sometimes people lump this with File Size too, but bandwidth is how we measure how much data you’re sending when people visit your website. We relate it to file size because larger files use more bandwidth. Obvious, right? Videos are large files, so they use up more bandwidth. Right now I get 5TB of transfer per month before I have to pay extra, and my average is 150G, so I have a ways to go before I need to worry about it. That said, not every host is as generous, and remember that ‘unlimited’ means ‘within reason’, especially with Shared Hosting.
There’s also a related concern we call ‘hotlinking’ and that’s where someone takes your images (or videos) and links to them directly, which means they;re using your content (and bandwidth). When someone does it to you, we call it bandwidth theft. When someone does it to YouTube, we call it ’embedding media.’ Personally I use Perishable Press’ ultimate hotlinking strategy and block all my images and videos from this.
It’s actually the concern of bandwidth and the availability of embedding media that drives many people to external hosting.
Your options… Your options…
Now that we know what makes this hard, what can we do? it’s pretty simple, we can host it ourselves, knowing these woes and being prepared to address them as they come up, or we can host our stuff elsewhere. For many of my friends, this is a no-brainer. Host it elsewhere, pay a little extra, but have all the technology headaches solved for you.
I work a lot with fansites and they face two major hurdles. Posting some videos is, strictly speaking, illegal as all get out. That 6 second clip of Mulder and Scully? Illegal. Hosting it? Illegal. Making money off it via ads on your site? Illlleeeeeeeeeeeegggaaaaallll.
You get the idea. But they’re going to do it anyway, and unless they decide to turn it into an animated GIF (still illegal actually according to some sources), they’re going to have a small video to host. Where can they host it?
The only place is their own server. Now, legally, you have to be given time to comply to a takedown DMCA notice, and really these monolithic companies are supposed to send YOU a takedown before going after your webhost with a demand, but that doesn’t always happen. Many fansites are banned from YouTube because of those clips, so it’s always going to be a fear.
Do I think that clips of TV shows should be illegal? Not within reason, no. I think a small clip, under 2 minutes, can be awesome advertising. And now a days, a lot of shows put their own, official, embeddable, clips up online. Of course… they also remove the clips after a while, which defeats the purpose, I feel.
What’s wrong with hosting locally? What’s wrong with hosting locally?
Really? Nothing. It’s just hard, complicated, and complex. If you can do it, I actually suggest you do. You can embed most video files in WordPress these days, so it works well. I wouldn’t do it for large clips (I don’t go over 10 megs myself), because it can and will slow your site down.
Mind, I wish WordPress.com’s video server code was up to date. I’d like to try that. Still, that’s where I am today. I’ll put in the effort and minimize my risk.