Vimeo, the video site that aims to offer high-quality content as an alternative to YouTube, announced today that it’s adding some features for paid members — which will help keep Vimeo ahead of most of its competition.
If you’ve got a Vimeo Plus account, the company says that by the end of January you’ll be able to show your videos in 1080p high-definition and to make those videos viewable on smartphones like the iPhone.
This is significant in a couple of ways. First, it improves the appeal of the $60-per-year Plus package. Second, it shows Vimeo ramping up its commitment to high-def video, and mobile video. On the high-def front, Vimeo already supports 720p, but there’s growing interest in the next step up, 1080p — YouTube has already started offering videos in that format. Vimeo says it’s a little concerned that since higher definition video demands more hardware and bandwidth, it could make for stuttery playback for many users. But soon Vimeo says it will let paying users decide whether they want to risk slower playback to get higher video quality.
Mobile support seems crucial for a site like this, but building the infrastructure takes time, because the Flash format used for Vimeo videos doesn’t work on many smartphones (though that’s changing). Vimeo started exploring mobile video by offering just two channels on its mobile site — one for “staff picks” and one for the “HD showcase.” Now Plus members can make any of their videos available too. Again, it’s a way for Vimeo to offer new features without having to make all of the site’s videos mobile-friendly. The company says it’s also developing a native, downloadable iPhone application.
The site’s big distinguishing feature has less to do with technical details and more with the fact that all of the videos must be created by the person who uploads them — you shouldn’t find any clips from your favorite TV shows here. Vimeo says it has more than 2.6 million members who are uploading about 11,00 videos daily. The site is owned by media company IAC.