Using Screenshots.com to Analyze the History of Major Video Websites

Technology changes so fast. We see articles all of the time discussing the rapid advancement of the web. It’s fun to think about what the world will be like in 2020.

But I also think it’s fun to look at the past. In fact, one of my favorite movies of all-time is Back to the Future. As a kid, I always dreamed of the chance where I could hop in the DeLorean and take a trip back to a previous era.

Well, today, we’re going to get that chance.

Thanks to my good friend Jason Hennessey at Everspark Interactive, we’re going to use Screenshots.com as our time traveling vehicle. Jason mentioned this site to me a few weeks ago and I’ve since enjoyed traveling time and seeing how the web has evolved.

In particular, I’ve had fun tracking the evolution of our most popular online video sites. If you take a peak at Vimeo, Youtube, Metacafe and more, you get a chance to see just how much things have changed over the years. So, let’s hop in the DeLorean, fire up the flux capacitor and take a trip to 2005 – the same year after the launch of Youtube.

Vimeo (2005)

Vimeo is one of the largest video sites on the web today. The site is home to a very unique community, attracting professionals interested more in quality and creativity. Here are a few observations from their site in 2005. A couple of notes we have on this site:

  • All of the thumbnails have a 4:3 aspect ratio. This was before HD (16:9 aspect ratio) became the norm on the web.
  • More importantly, notice how the videos are really small – probably 320×240. If videos got any bigger than that, your computer would choke and the video would freeze.

Metacafe (2006)

Metacafe, headquartered in San Francisco, specializes in mostly short-form web videos. You can find a lot of original & premium short videos here. Here are a few findings:

  • Holy ugly hyperlinks. That’s really all I see when looking at this page. A bunch of underlined aqua blue links.
  • Surprisingly, comments were in place back then. So there was a commitment to generating discussions beyond the video content.
  • The ad space is in the middle of the page.
  • The “family filter” is pretty prominent on the right side whereas this doesn’t even exist on the homepage today.

Youtube (2006)

Youtube is the most popular video website in the world. It’s also the world’s second largest search engine with over 3 billion searches per month. A few takeaways:

  • Similar to the other sites, the blue hyperlinks…they are awful.
  • At the time, Youtube was using a rating system which doesn’t really exist now – it’s either thumbs up or down these days.
  • The featured videos have just hundreds of views versus millions – that says a lot for how video has grown on the web.
  • The main navigation has Friends and Groups – I can’t remember how that worked, but they’re gone today as we have social integration in place (Facebook, Twitter, Google+, etc.).

Devour (2006)

Devour is a great place to find videos “worth watching.” The site does an excellent job curating interesting and fun videos from across the web. Here are a few things we caught:

  • Apparently in 2006, there weren’t any videos worth watching. This site didn’t even exist yet.
  • Parked domain pages still look pretty much the same now as they did back then!

Dailymotion (2006)

Dailymotion gets over 112 million website visitors each month. These visitors generate nearly 2.5 billion views each month as well. Needless to say, this site has grown quite a bit over the years. A couple of key points:

  • Members and groups were a big component of the site.
  • The number of comments were a bigger element compared to today’s site.
  • Comments were the major attribute for each video instead of views.
  • The videos were largely categorized by channels, whereas this isn’t the case on today’s homepage.

ABC (2006)

We don’t want to forget the larger network sites. ABC.com is home of so many popular shows these days and attracts millions of views. Here are a few thoughts:

  • Wow, remember when rounded corners were all the rage? Well, I think you have a few to choose from here.
  • The site is very crowded compared to today’s standards – there are ads, blogs, newsletters, search bars and a million calls to action.
  • The banner ad is very prominent compared to the network sites today – abc.com and others use more interactive stuff these days.

NBC (2006)

NBC is another major network that streams a ton of video content. You’ll find favorites like Parks and Recreation, Parenthood and Saturday Night Live available online. Here are a couple notes:

  • The site has a large ad area which is collapsible – it’s amazing that these are still in effect today.
  • Note that the large ad banner at the top is not related to nbc.com or one of their shows.
  • The small tab component on the left must have been hard to deal with on smaller monitors in 2006.
  • It appears The Office was ahead of the curve with their launch of webisodes.

522 Productions (2007)

What’s the fun of going back in time if you can’t take a look at your old self? Well, we had to fast-forward a bit to 2007 since screenshots.com doesn’t have our 2006 site available. Nevertheless, we were still making things happen back in 2007. Here are a couple of our observations:

  • This version is 100% flash, which is all but dead now.
  • The old view finder is amazing, isn’t it? I can’t even remember the type of camera that’s being used.
  • Even in 2007, we offered free proposals.
  • We’ve dropped the trademark of Tell Your Story to the World…even though we still do that!

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