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Vimeo and YouTube are each useful services, but which you should choose depends on your needs.
Video content has become an increasingly important part of online business and life. From Facebook to Instagram to Snapchat, social video services are everywhere. But when it comes to building your brand or sharing your art, you need to be able to count on your video hosting service. YouTube reigns supreme over the market, but Vimeo looms large as a steadily growing alternative. To get the most out of your content, you need the service that best suits your needs. It’s come down to Vimeo vs YouTube — so which is best for you?
Vimeo vs Youtube: What’s the difference?
YouTube is a video-sharing service that was started in 2005 by three scrappy former employees of PayPal. In the years since it has grown into the largest streaming video site on Earth, thanks to its easy to use interface and low cost. Due to the sheer size of its audience, YouTube is a favorite place for eager filmmakers looking to find an audience. It doesn’t matter if you want to start vlogging or posting documentaries about Earthworm Jim, YouTube has room.
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- How to block YouTube videos
Vimeo vs YouTube: Cost
YouTube is free to use. There are no tiers or memberships required to use the service unless you opt into YouTube Premium, the ad-free subscription service offered via Google. To use YouTube in any capacity, you will need to make a Google account. For most people that won’t be a problem, but if you’re still living without a Gmail address, it’s a compromise you’ll need to make.
Cost is the biggest problem users seeking to use Vimeo. While YouTube lets people and businesses use their service for free, Vimeo is largely locked behind a paywall. Basic Vimeo membership is free, which gives users 500MB per week to upload before they reach a storage cap of 5GB. They can also only upload up to ten videos per day. Of course, given the size of a standard video, especially in HD, those videos would have to be either short or low-quality.
Paid users can choose from four plans—Plus, PRO, Business, and Premium—with each tier unlocking new features. Plans start at $7 per month with Plus and top out with at $75 per month for the Premium service. Those numbers hide the true cost of the service, though. When you’re billed annually, you have to pay up front. So that $7 per month for Plus becomes $84, $20 per month for PRO is $240, $50 per month for Business becomes $600, and $75 per month for Premium becomes $900.
If you’d like to pay month to month instead of all at once, Vimeo only offers one option, Plus, for $12 per month.
Vimeo vs YouTube: Upload limits
YouTube has no limits on how much you upload, though the maximum length of a video is currently 12 hours long and individual files can’t be larger than 128GB. At one point the service supported videos that were days long, but it has since set a limit. Your 24-hour epic will need to be a two-parter. As for downloading videos from YouTube, the rules vary.
How much you can upload on Vimeo is limited by membership level. As we mentioned before, Basic users are limited to just 5GB of data total, and 500MB of uploads per week. Once you start paying, however, those numbers dramatically improve. Plus subscribers can upload 5GB of video per week, up to 250GB per year. Pro subscribers can upload 20GB per week, up to 1TB per year. Vimeo Business and Premium subscribers have no weekly upload limit, but top out at 5TB and 7TB total storage respectively.
Vimeo vs YouTube: Audience size
If you want to connect to the world, YouTube is probably your best bet. The only website bigger than YouTube is their own Google. According to World Meters, the population of the Earth right now is 7.6 billion people. 1 billion of those people use YouTube. On paper, Vimeo is no competition with around 170 million monthly viewers using the site and 42 million each month coming from the U.S. However, Vimeo saw 80 percent year over year global growth and are averaging 25 million new monthly members.
What matters is the kind of viewers you want to attract. YouTube has a larger audience because it’s free, but that’s why you often end up with racist comment wars on innocent cat videos. Vimeo has a smaller, more focused demographic, building a community of supportive creatives who often leave useful feedback. The very nature of its paywall keeps out anyone who isn’t serious about using the site. Will you be getting in front of fewer eyes? Sure. But it’s worth considering a smaller audience if it means the people you do find watch more closely.
Vimeo vs YouTube: Ads and monetization
YouTube allows channel creators to monetize their content, but recent controversial changes have been unpopular. To be considered for monetization, YouTube requires that channels have 1,000 subscribers and reach a threshold of 4,000 hours of watch time over the past year. Before January, users only needed 10,000 total views to start running ads. If you want to make money on YouTube, you need a large fanbase first. Especially since YouTube’s algorithm pushes monetized videos over non-monetized ones.
From a viewer standpoint, if you leave the service on autoplay, especially on more popular videos, you’re going to experience more ads. However, if you enroll in YouTube Premium (formerly known as YouTube Red) through Google, you’ll pay $11.99 per month to access ad-free content. For ad-free subscription to YouTube Music Premium, you’ll pay $9.99 per month. Overall, it’s a pretty fair deal if you’re really fed up with YouTube’s pre-roll ads.
Vimeo, on the other hand, doesn’t have pre-roll ads on their videos. The service pays its bills in other ways, but that means video creators have to shell out as well. However, there are other options. Members with a Pro or above account can sell their content on Vimeo using rent, buy, or subscribe models. Creators earn 90% of the revenue collected via Vimeo’s on-demand service. Depending on the loyalty of your fanbase, using Vimeo on-demand may be more profitable in the long run.
Vimeo vs YouTube: Player customization
No, YouTube does not allow users to customize their player. When you embed the player on your site, it will look the same as it does anywhere else. That doesn’t mean you can’t do any customization. Channels can add a watermark to their videos or add annotations and links that pop up during play.
With Vimeo, Pro or above accounts have access to customization options for their video player. Your customization works whether your video is playing on Vimeo or embedded elsewhere. From colors and play buttons to end screens linking out to other work, customization is a subtle but useful way to drive engagement. You can also customize who can watch your videos and which websites can embed your content. If you have exclusive content, this blocks unscrupulous re-posters from posting your work on their own page. Vimeo also offers some third-party video players, though Vimeo’s embedded customization options don’t work with these players. Still, it’s a nice option to have, and one YouTube doesn’t offer.
Vimeo vs YouTube: The final verdict
YouTube’s extra advantages
YouTube is best for video creators and artists looking for the most eyes available or who are working on a budget. Profiting from your work may be harder than ever on YouTube, but the service reaches a worldwide audience. Given that the service is free there’s no reason you shouldn’t post your content on YouTube, even if you also use a competitor like Vimeo. None of its best features get locked behind a paywall. While you might lack customization, price will never hold you back.
YouTube is big on mobile, with more than half of its traffic coming from smartphone or tablet users. If you’re targeting mobile users, that’s an important detail. Since YouTube is owned by Google, YouTube videos are favored as results for Google searches. Plus, the site itself is a massively popular search engine for highly specific video content. If you know a bit of search strategy, this could provide an outstanding opportunity for artists looking for views.
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Vimeo’s extra advantages
YouTube was founded to make video easier for everyone, but Vimeo was established to make online video better for filmmakers. Have you ever uploaded a video only to discover a mistake a week later? On YouTube, that mistake will live forever in that video unless you want to pull it down and lose your stats. All Vimeo users, even free ones, can replace a video without losing stats, comments, views, or the URL.
Vimeo also offers team collaboration and sharing options for Pro and above members. Multiple users can log in to your account, leaving notes on projects, uploading videos, and more from different locations. You can send out private links and screeners that can’t be embedded on another site.
Finally, Vimeo feels and looks beautiful and offers better customization. YouTube is a cluttered loud mess at times, bludgeoning you with suggested videos and ads. Vimeo has a sleeker, less busy design and presentation, making for an overall more pleasant viewing experience. Hopefully, Vimeo’s budget options will diversify and open the door for a wider audience.
Editor’s note: This article is regularly updated for relevance.
John-Michael Bond is a tech reporter and culture writer for Daily Dot. A longtime cord-cutter and early adopter, he's an expert on streaming services (Hulu with Live TV), devices (Roku, Amazon Fire), and anime. A former staff writer for TUAW, he's knowledgeable on all things Apple and Android. You can also also find him regularly performing standup comedy in Los Angeles.