Hard as it may be for anyone under 30 to imagine, there was a time when people used to shoot eight-millimeter films while on vacation and then show them to friends and family gathered around a projector in the living room. Nowadays, capturing video is far easier (whether you use a video camera, a digital still camera with video capability, or even a cell phone), as is the sharing: YouTube has proved that millions of folks have learned to upload video to a computer and instantly e-mail a link to family and friends.
While YouTube remains a popular venue for sharing vacation videos, websites specifically targeting travelers are also springing up. The quality of the applications and usefulness of the content, however, vary greatly. We tested four to see which are easiest, which have bugs to work out, and which can even help you offset your travel costs.
For anyone just getting the hang of online video sharing, no-frills Travelistic--founded by veterans of Condé Nast, iFilm, and MTV--is a good start. Before you upload a video, Travelistic directs you through a simple registration process and asks you to write a short description of your clip. When the video is posted, you can e-mail friends to tell them to watch it. You can also create a profile page to list your videos, add links to other people's clips, and indicate on a world map where you've been and where you'd like to go.
Cool: Similar to YouTube, Travelistic gives an embed code for most postings, allowing anyone on the Internet to add the clip to his or her own website or blog. Likewise, YouTube videos can be embedded into Travelistic (as in the Miami video shown here).
Not cool: No registration is required to leave comments on other people's videos, leading to spam. Travelistic also doesn't restrict who can post videos, so some material on the site comes from tourism promoters.
Upload time: Painfully slow at 20 minutes.*
Revver is a general-interest video-sharing site with a category devoted to travel clips. Its process for uploading a video is similar to Travelistic's, but the personal "dashboard" is much more sophisticated. You can collect friends, à la Facebook, and add other people's videos to your playlist (a compilation of favorite clips). There are also more ways to share your videos: The site allows you to use embed codes to link your videos to social-networking sites, and your friends can download the clips as podcasts in iTunes.
Cool: The site affixes small advertisements to the bottom of every video, usually promoting something germane. (For example, an ad for a Miami hotel is attached to a home movie of Miami Beach.) Revver then pays you half the revenue it makes from the video ads--the total depends on how many people view the ads or click on them. You can track how much you've made in your dashboard, and you're automatically paid through PayPal once you've earned at least $20. Earnings can be substantial. The creators of an extremely popular Diet Coke and Mentos video on the site have made $50,000.
Not cool: Editors screen all of the videos to ensure that no obscene or copyrighted material will be posted to the site--the process can take several hours or even a day. If your video has more than 10 seconds of a Beyoncé song in the background, for instance, the editors could consider it a copyright violation and block the clip's posting.
Upload time: Five minutes.
Founded by four friends in New York City, including former IgoUgo chief executive Tony Cheng, Tripfilms is geared toward people who think of themselves as filmmakers, professional or otherwise, with higher-quality and more informative clips than those on other video-sharing sites. But that shouldn't deter the novice videographer; Tripfilms's videos may be slicker than those on other websites, but the site isn't necessarily more exclusive. The staff posts all videos submitted by users unless the clips are offensive. There are also tips on producing better videos, such as finding an opening or closing shot and writing a more natural script.
Cool: The site has a Film Your Trip program in which people pitch ideas for video travel stories to the editors and--if their ideas are accepted--are paid at least $50 for each clip they produce. If you ask, the staff may edit your video to make it look more professional or give advice on how to do it yourself. The site also occasionally gives away an iPod Nano to the creators of the top videos.
Not cool: Tripfilms is less than a year old, so traffic is low. There are just 700 videos on the site; only a handful have more than a few thousand viewings.
Upload time: Six minutes.
Zoom And Go
Zoom And Go sees itself as a combination of TripAdvisor and YouTube. The site allows users to not only upload videos and photos, but also to write reviews for hotels, destinations, and attractions, and to search for hotels in certain cities. Navigating the site, however, can be slightly problematic. When you click on a city like London, for instance, you can add it to your Trip Planner, but that just creates a list of bookmarked places--there's no actual planning function yet. The site also has a tool to check hotel availability, but clicking on the link to book the room in both Firefox and Safari led to an error page.
Cool: Zoom And Go doesn't attach ads to videos, but it's launching a system that'll award points for every video, photo, and review posted on the site. The points will then be redeemable for money that'll go to the charity of the user's choice. Videos will be worth 30 points apiece; every 100 points accrued will earn $1. The editors also say that all content is provided by actual travelers, not tourism promoters.
Not cool: Although Zoom And Go claims to have the largest collection of travel videos on the Internet (more than 14,000), the clips are rarely longer than a minute, providing just a cursory glimpse of a hotel lobby or a tourist destination.
Upload time: Seven minutes.
*For all tests, we used broadband Wi-Fi to upload a four-minute clip.