This is the history of videoblogging and Ourmedia's role in its development.
Videoblogging began as a consistent act in 2004, when a small group of video geeks realized that the blog was the distribution tool we had always been looking for. It was also a time when broadband internet in the United States had become fairly common in people's homes, which made watching videos through the browser easy. The motivation of this first group of videobloggers was to have people around the world record their lives, distribute these videos through blogs, and archive them online for all to search. It was an extremely exciting time, since videoblogging was completely unrealized by companies. For a short while, videobloggers could experiment and innovate without any commercial distraction.
Videoblogging was amazing for several reasons. First, it was a way to let anyone with an internet connection see a video. Second, it allowed others to comment on the video and create a conversation. Third, the blog automatically archived videos. Fourth, by adding a text description, the blog made all the videos searchable. Fifth, by using RSS, creators could create their own 'channel,' and deliver videos to thousands of people at no cost.
I must emphasize how supportive the videoblogging community has been throughout its history. When videoblogging was still unknown to the mainstream, this tight-knit group of people attracted new members each day through word of mouth. Video geeks around the world were thrilled to find a way to get their videos distributed to a wider public. For so long, many of us made videos that sat in our closets. We would embrace new members and help them in any way we could through email and chat. We quickly documented our processes and expanded our knowledge when anyone learned a new trick. Since we were an international group, we stressed personal documentation so we could get to know each other. Everyday you would see artists, soccer moms, college students, et cetera make videos for each other. We reached out to people in different countries and included all languages, since many members were multi-lingual.
In January of 2005, just six months after our community began, we held the first Vloggercon at NYU in Manhattan. During a blizzard, about eighty people from across the US and Europe met to discuss what videoblogging meant. The event was spontaneous and organized in an ad hoc manner. The developers discussed practical subjects: what tools the community needed, what videoblogging was allowing artists to do, and what, according to the academics, it all meant. The biggest talk focused on the future of videoblogging and how to spread it to a wider audience. The importance of getting as many regular people as possible creating and posting video cannot be stressed enough. The participants were artists, educators, and developers all sharing a common goal of building a new way to communicate online. We all wanted to bring a human touch back to the web through video.
At this time, we were still dealing with very fundamental problems such as 'where will the videos be stored?' Since our goal was to be as inclusive as possible, we did not want to require people to own their own server and deal with FTP. We wanted people to be able to upload their video through the browser and get it on their blog as quickly as possible. And we wanted it to be free. Therewas no service that did this in January of 2005. At the time, we were all videoblogging in our own unique way by hacking into existing services and technologies to do what we needed to do. This is when we conceived of Ourmedia.org.
At Vloggercon 2005, JD Lasica and Mark Canter announced that they were creating a site that hooked into Archive.org run by Brewster Kahle. Anyone could create an account, upload their video of any size/format, and then link to it from their blog. It was incredible. Ourmedia was to be non-profit and focused on community video that practiced no censorship. Now that there was a simple and consistent way to upload video, Michael Verdi and Ryanne Hodson quickly built Freevlog.org to teach anyone how to videoblog in six easy steps using Ourmedia.org. Combined with our evangelizing this made our community grow from a few hundred people to a few thousand people within the year.
Ourmedia was a huge success from the start. It was an amazing resource that tore down any barrier to entry. You could now make a blog and post a video for free in about five minutes. This was unheard of. Ourmedia also focused on helping creators of similar interests find each other.
Yet, Ourmedia also faced deep challenges from the beginning. Marc Canter put his own money into creating the site, but it was mostly volunteer run. Consistency was difficult. The site worked well for several thousand people, but when it starting hitting 100,000 people, this created enormous problems of scale. It was also extremely difficult to have the same sense of intimacy when this many people came together.
By January of 2006, the commercial world had caught up with us. Entrepreneurs had joined our email list and saw what it is we were doing, and what it was that we needed. Every week a businessman launched a new site that helped videobloggers post video. YouTube was one of those sites. It was sad that we were losing the intimacy and initial excitement, but ultimately it was great news that personal web video was becoming so popular. The network had now spread. People had options. The technology was becoming invisible. The mainstream press now had plenty of examples and hooks to write about this new style of video publishing. Videoblogging was now mainstream.
Ourmedia continues to exist to this day. JD Lasica and Markus Sandy are leading the site into new places. You can still upload a video for free to Ourmedia, but this is nothing new these days. Ourmedia now focuses on media literacy and offers resources for new people to understand the context in which they create their work. Ourmedia is building tools that let people create 'channels' by tagging similar media, thus letting you become a video DJ. Ourmedia is also championing Creative Commons licensing to help create a participatory culture rather than a permissions culture.
Videoblogging has helped create many opportunities for video creators, but the challenges of community media are still the same. As simple and cheap as technology has become, many people still do not know how to tell effective stories. People are still disconnected and isolated from one another. The web is still unknown territory for the majority, instead of it being a place to seek out new connections. Not everyone has regular access to broadband internet or to his or her own computer. The social boundaries in society are still mirrored online.
However, we need to
remember that effective change always comes
slowly and usually through small, motivated
groups. In three short years, there are now
videoblogs on every continent (including
Antarctica!). YouTube, with its enormous
resources, is making web video popular around the
world. Once a new videoblogger comes online,
enlightened video creators cross over the usual
boundaries, find each other, and make entirely
new connections. The real challenge now is simply
asking what it is we want to do now that we can
show each other anything. And it all begins with
picking up a camera and showing who you