Connected Ventures

How Vimeo became hipster YouTube

February 23, 2011: 12:20 PM ET

Vimeo is the web's go-to for high-quality, DIY digital video. And its founders might've invented the Like button. Not bad for a side project.


Image via Wikipedia

By John Patrick Pullen, contributor

November 17, 2005 is a day that lives in online infamy. While no one knew it at the time (5:28 p.m., to be precise) this is when the first 'Like' button was clicked. Of all the websites that currently feature the social media stamp of approval — like Internet heavyweights Facebook and Pandora — the ubiquitous 'thumbs-up' originated on the unlikeliest of places: the online video-sharing service Vimeo.

Well, maybe.

First off, claiming to invent the 'like' button is like saying you were the first person to ever eat cold pizza for breakfast — it's probably not true, and whoever actually had the first slice likely didn't take note of the landmark event. Secondly, Vimeo's vice president of product and development, Andrew Pile, readily admits they copied the idea from social news aggregator Digg. ("We liked the Digg concept, but we didn't want to call it 'Diggs,' so we came up with 'Likes,'" says Pile.) But that's not the point. Vimeo has built a scorching hot social media site by being the first to implement forward-thinking web technologies without much, if any, fanfare — and the 'Like' button is just one example.

Founded in late 2004 by Connected Ventures, the company best known for comedy website College Humor and funny t-shirt e-tailer Busted Tees, Vimeo was originally a side project for web developers Jakob Lodwick and Zach Klein. After hours, the two College Humor staffers built the site and began experimenting with uploading and tagging short videos for their friends. And with that — from the real-world, physical social network of these two people — Vimeo's video sharing service was born.

But with College Humor's popularity, Vimeo was put on the back burner, slowly building a user base through word-of-mouth alone. It saw no substantial investment until after August 2006, when IAC/InterActiveCorp (IACI) bought 51% of Connected Ventures. "After the sale, IAC looked at everything they bought and realized they had also accidentally purchased a video sharing company," says Pile. And in November 2006, when Google (GOOG) purchased YouTube for $1.65 billion dollars, the incidental acquisition seemed particularly fortuitous. "It was kind of on everyone's mind that video sharing was going to be a hot thing," says Pile. "Google thought so; I'm sure everyone else did." More

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