Not too long ago, the Web was a collection of text and static images.
Today, you can find literally hundreds of websites that offer video on every subject imaginable. Just as cable TV revolutionized viewing habits by providing hundreds of specialized channels, video on the Internet is having a similar impact.
Video On Demand
No longer is it necessary to tune into your favorite television program at a certain hour; you can now stream it online or download it to your desktop or iPod. Or skip the filler and just watch highlights of The Daily Show, CNN newscasts and other popular programs.
Of course if we've had the ability to timeshift programming for years by recording what plays on our TVs.
But the real promise of Web video is the birth of streaming video you can watch at any time, as well as personal video publishing – the ability of anyone with a digital video camera or even a mobile phone to create and share videos with a potential online audience of over a billion people.
Sites like YouTube allow anyone to upload video clips and post them for all the world to watch.
Not only has it unleashed personal expression, but it has enabled citizen journalists to bypass established media channels to show unvarnished views of events like the war in Iraq, the London subway bombings, and politicians' gaffes.
With millions of hours of video awaiting you online, you will have to wade through a lot of junk to find the gems. But that can be part of the fun – discovering comic clips, poignant slices of life, and alternative views of the world.
What You Need
Because video files are large, for optimal viewing, you should have broadband Internet connection, unless you have the patience of a saint.
To view video files you've downloaded to your computer, you will need a media player like VLC Media Player, Windows Media Player, or QuickTime. If you don't have these programs, download the software for free by clicking on these links:
To hear the audio, you'll also need either speakers, headphones or earbuds.
Many sites now have video embedded in the web page, so all you have to do is click the Play button right from your web browser – no need to download any additional software. If you can't see the video, you may need the Flash Player plug-in for your web browser. It's a free download from Adobe. Today, however, many sites are moving away from using Flash to make use of newer technologies.
Search for Videos
With so much video for viewing, how do you find the right stuff? Try these useful tools:
A number of sites with a lifetime of video viewing include:
YouTube is by far the 800 pound gorilla of Internet video. The site literally hosts millions of clips uploaded by people from around the world. Originally started as a hosting service for video, YouTube has become an online phenomenon. Search by subject or watch the most popular videos of the day. A nice feature is the user ratings.
Vimeo is another popular video hosting service similar to YouTube, but one that doesn’t include advertising.
Dailymotion also allows users to upload their own videos and has a reputation for having more lenient policies and requirements than YouTube.
A word of caution: Watching online clips can be as addictive as watching TV – and just as productive!