Today marks the 1st anniversary of the closing of Vidme, which was a startup alternative to YouTube based in LA. It had so much potential when we first joined their small video-sharing platform in 2016. In fact, we were so sure it was gonna succeed and become a huge competitor to YouTube, we decided to switch there full-time. However, the platform would unfortunately come apart fairly quickly and we would have to put our eggs in other baskets, such as LBRY and BitChute. But in order to understand how we got here, we must first take a step back and look at the early history of Vidme, what they advertised themselves to be, the strong community that was held during its existence, and ultimately, how the platform came apart.
Originally called Viddme, it was founded by Warren Shaeffer and Alex Benzer in 2014. It was among several startups created by LA-based video product lab BitKitchen, which still exists today. Most notably as the owner of a blockchain-based digital art platform called Digital Objects.
Financially, Vidme was fairly strong. In 2015, they successfully raised $3.2 million from investors such as Mark Suster of Upfront Ventures and Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian. And in 2016, they raised another $6 million in Series A funding.
What Vidme advertised itself to be
The first time I heard of Vidme was in 2016 because Peter Day was trying out that platform. Many of us small creators had become disgruntled with YouTube’s business practices then, just like we still are today. From big studios being able to copyright-strike videos without much consideration for Fair Use law to YouTube’s “advertiser-friendly” policy, many of us creators were looking for a safe haven where we could just be creators and make content without the fear of being copyright-striked or getting suspended for no good reason.
So, I decided to create a channel for Sandia Mesa on Vidme. And frankly, I became quite impressed. The site’s design was not too bad and it seemed like the staff was willing to welcome Sandia Mesa with open arms.
What I liked the most was that they seemed to be emphasizing freedom of speech. And that is what they pushed the most, especially in the viral Statue of Liberty video, where they stated, “Give us your fucking profanity, your goddamn sexual humor”, etc. They also emphasized putting creators first before advertisers, the biggest reason plenty of creators came.
The Vidme community
During its existence, the community of creators was actually quite a wonderful one. I got to know many creators such as Dazzlinglatte, Kentantino, and Maria the German. And I even got a local creator known as Jenny Fedora and even got to be on their GACC Podcast and discussed the issues with Vidme in two videos with them.
So much so, I even got to be in a Monthiversary collab for Maria the German. Another good example of how the community came together is when a bunch of creators entered the Vidme Forward in 2016. Each of us who entered the collab had do one second for each part of the countdown to the New Year. Admittedly, this was quite a clever thing to do to compete with YouTube Rewind at the time.
Vidme comes tumbling down
In July 2017, Kentantino uploaded a video to Vidme criticizing the new design of the front page. And later, he was unverified with no reason given. Now, I had only known Kentantino because I was part of the Drama Crew Discord, where I would also meet some great creators. After hearing about him getting unverified, I honestly was kinda ticked off and shocked. Why would such a platform whose purpose of existing is to be a free speech haven for creators who want to be able to discuss certain subjects without fear of being punished for no good reason? Why would a company that so openly states that they’re open to feedback and have been working behind the scenes with creators suddenly abandon their values when it’s most convenient for them?
So, I called them out. And this was when they showed their true colors. Especially with how Duffy said that he “lost his privilege.” And of course, I responded by “blacking out” as part of the #FreeKentantino movement. Of course after #FreeKentantino started trending, the staff decided to cut videos in the “Vidme” category from being in the trending section of the front page. Honestly kind of a dumb choice in my opinion, especially with the timing because it only served to look as if they were doing it for PR damage control. But little did I know, it would get worse from now on.
In August 2017, Sandia Mesa got unverified on Vidme. Now if I recall correctly, this happened shortly after I commented about the fact that I wasn’t that big of a fan of Vidme anymore on one of Dave Cullen (aka Computing Forever)’s videos. Nevertheless, I decided to inquire about why I got unverified. No response either privately or publicly. In fact, the post in which I inquired about Sandia Mesa’s unverification on their subreddit was removed. You can still view the post in its full text on our main website.
But this is where the kicker comes in. So, some user named LoreReloaded decided to ask Vidme why they deleted my post. And get ready, this is how Duffy responded:
Yep. They antagonized me right out of the gate. Not because I violated ToS or shit like that. But because I’m someone who “obsessively bashes Vidme.” SO SPOOKY! So, I took it to Twitter to call out Duffy for the comment.
And to nobody’s surprise, I got blocked by Duffy a few moments later. But this isn’t the end of the drama.
Later in November 2017, a good friend of mine DarcsenOfLegend comes around and criticizes them. This time, for some stuff regarding ad revenue and them not necessarily being transparent about it called, “Is Vidme stealing from creators?” Note that he did delete the video and reupload a different version to clarify him because Duffy thought he was accusing them of stealing revenue, which was not Darcsen’s intent.
And of course that day, November 2nd, 2017, was the tip of the iceberg. To put it briefly, Duffy, being the oh-so wonderful person he is, unblocked me just so he could provoke me, Kentantino, and Darcsen. And then blocked me again afterwards.
Anyways, fearing that I was gonna be deplatformed by Vidme the next day. I rushed to get all the descriptions and titles of my video copied onto a Word document, made sure my videos that were on Vidme were still on my computer, and then began reuploading them to BitChute.
A few days later, I was proven right. On November 5th, 2017, the Sandia Mesa account was disabled. The channel was nowhere to be seen. Nobody could see the videos on Vidme anymore. In others word, Sandia Mesa was deplatformed by Vidme.
About a month later on December 1st, 2017, Vidme announces that they’re going to shut down the website in 15 days and immediately ended allowing for users to sign up or upload new videos, along with paid subscriptions. And of course, on December 15th, 2017, Vidme closes their doors to the public.
It is unfortunate that such a video-sharing platform like Vidme, which had promised to be better than YouTube, had to shut down. The many creators in the community I met were great. And to this day, I still maintain friendships with some of the creators I met. When I first joined Vidme in 2016, they had so much potential to become a big threat to YouTube’s monopoly in the online video-sharing market. Especially since they seemed like they could actually compete with YouTube and successfully offer a much better service.
However, this could’ve all been prevented. Had Duffy not pushed to unverify and deplatform those who dare speak out about their flaws; had they been more transparent with creators and the community; had they not abandoned their values just to save face whenever they got criticized, Vidme would’ve still been around today and could’ve been a true pro-free speech haven to YouTube’s tyranny.
Moreover, the debacles Vidme had with me and Kentantino are prime examples of why freedom of speech is so important on the internet today. Nobody who runs a public service such as a social media website, public forum, webhosting service, DNS registrar, or a payment-processing service should have the power to discriminate or deny service on the basis of someone’s viewpoint or opinion on certain subjects. Because when they do have the power, they can use it to try to wipe those they don’t like off the internet entirely.
Freedom of speech is so important, that it’s a basic human right protected by the 1st Amendment of the Constitution of the United States and advocated for in Article 19 of the United Nations’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights. And yet, this basic human right is not necessarily observed by mainstream internet platforms and services.
If we truly want to preserve the open and free internet, we need to step up and advocate for the right to freedom of speech, even for those whom we may not like. We need to be more willing to call out those who deplatform others for no good reason; to support platforms and services who are pro-freedom of speech. And maybe if we do that, we’ll have a day where the most prominent internet services and social media sites are not deplatforming people on the basis of viewpoint or opinion, but rather on the basis of doing activity that causes danger and harm to others, such as doxing and calling for acts for violence.