Vimeo's Noncommercial Nature

Vimeo’s asked Marco Armet to take down his Instapaper Pro demo video. His response:

Vimeo usually makes good policy decisions. But their complete prohibition of anything that can remotely be considered for commercial purposes, even with a paid Plus account, doesn’t strike me as particularly necessary. I really don’t see why this is the right move.

I can sympathize with Marco’s frustration. Vimeo is probably the highest-quality video site on the net. The player is minimal, and better thought-out than most that I’ve seen elsewhere. The community is engaged and excellent in a way that YouTubers never will be, and the discovery tools are as good as Flickr’s (which is high praise indeed). From that perspective, it’s exactly the right place to post a commercial video that you want people to watch, and get excited about.

However, I believe that Vimeo is a great place to get the right kind of attention for your product precisely because they’ve had an explicitly “personal” ethos from the start. They’ve built up a community of creative people who want to share their creations and life with the world, and the policy decisions they’ve settled upon are focused on maintaining that community experience. Opening that up to commercial exploitation would be intensely counter-productive; YouTube is evidence of that. It’s clear to me that Vimeo would be a worse place were it to allow itself to be overrun with moneymaking ventures…

In some ways, this is a shame, as projects like Instapaper and Birdhouse are definitely best of breed in terms of supportable business opportunities. And, honestly, they’re examples of personal products in a way that Vimeo probably wasn’t thinking about when they codified their standards. But I can sympathize with their position: Vimeo has taken a hard line against commercial activity (as well as other sorts of activity that don’t fit their model: video game captures for instance), and making exceptions for cool products from cool business ventures simply isn’t sustainable.

As much as I love Instapaper (and I love Instapaper), Vimeo isn’t the right place for it to be advertised.