The esteemed Ms. Ordinal Malaprop, of whom I have written here on a number of occasions, has started getting into video in a big way, and is using a hosting service called Vimeo for her clips, such as the two she highlights in this recent blog post. She prefers the service to Google Video (which she finds extraordinarily difficult to use) or YouTube (which she loathes). Unfortunately, Vimeo has a maddening restriction: she can only upload 30 Mb of video to them per week…and when you’re dealing with video, 30 Mb is nothing compared to the output she can generate.
It was a similar restriction that led me to give up on the Ricochet wireless Internet service; they impose a 1 Gb/week bandwidth restriction. While this was no doubt intended to stop people from doing things like peer-to-peer file sharing over their connections, it meant that even upgrading my Debian boxes was a dicey proposition at best…and as for using Ricochet with services like Xbox Live (or perhaps even Second Life, come to think of it): fuggedaboudit! A couple of times, after doing system upgrades, I wound up having to call them up and beg them not to cancel my account. Small wonder that, when the cable provider servicing our apartment got bought out by Comcast and they started offering reasonable cable modem service, I made the switch.
Why do services impose these kinds of arbitrary limits? There can only be two reasons: they don’t have the resources to service all their customers otherwise (disk space, bandwidth), or they’re attempting to protect themselves against possible abuse (P2P and servers in Ricochet’s case, and copyright infringement in Vimeo’s case). With regard to the latter, even I am guilty of imposing limits like that; attachments to posts on Electric Minds are limited to 1 Mb. I set the threshold this low to keep people from uploading an entire full-fidelity MP3 track as a post attachment, as I figured that would be likely to draw negative attention from the RIAA. (Sometimes it gets in the way of people who want to post a large image file or document as an attachment, though.) I would hope that Vimeo’s restrictions are more like the former, and that, as the service gets more popular, they’ll have more resources and can raise that cap.
(Of course, there’s also the fact that Vimeo doesn’t work with Linux, as it requires Flash 8 and Macromedia haven’t seen fit to upgrade the Linux player past version 7, though they say they will…someday. But that’s another matter.)
Now, Second Life itself seems to have an elegant solution to the issue of upload limits; you can upload as much stuff as you want, but you have to pay L$10 for each thing you upload. If those upload fees are earmarked for upgrades to the asset server, that means the uploaded items could potentially pay for the space required to store them. Simple and neat. Copyright issues aren’t as cleanly dealt with, however; the recent fashion thrash involving Torrid Midnight makes that clear…but whenever the law is involved, things can get messy. Just ask the Napster folks…