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I'm diving into web development after ten years of desktop development and I have an idea for a Rails website that will rely on users posting short videos (5 -15 mins) they've recorded. The website will be ad-supported and probably won't generate enough revenue to support hosting video based on how expensive I understand it to be, so the idea I had was to allow users to specify a link to the video they recorded and have posted on Youtube. This way, YouTube funds all the resources (storage, bandwidth, etc.) needed for the videos and I simply embed them in my website. My questions are...

  1. Is it worth the poor design choice to separate the user's content service provider (in this case, YouTube) from my website in order to save the money it would cost me to host the videos myself?
  2. Is there an inexpensive way for me to host the videos myself if the answer to my first question is "No!"?
  3. If it's not a bad idea, do you see any other potential problems with this approach?

I apologize if this question is absurd in any way, I'm still getting familiar with the workings of web businesses. Thanks so much in advance for your wisdom, I'm going to continue researching my questions right now.

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2 Answers

up vote 8 down vote accepted

It's definitely a good idea to offload as much hosting as you can to sites that you know will still be around long after your website is gone (or until you make enough money to host content yourself). Your real issue is: how do you make it transparent to your users?

I haven't really done any research into this myself but it might be worth seeing if you can embed the youtube video upload form on your own page so that the user never has to leave your site. Depending on the assumed computer competency of your users, making them create a youtube account, upload the video and then submit the link to your site is probably a bad idea.

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I agree with you, it's definitely a poor man's design if there's no way to make it transparent. and probably more work that a lot of people are willing to put forth. thanks for your thoughts! –  BeachRunnerJoe Dec 20 '10 at 6:49
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As long as you're aware that you are creating an external dependency for yourself which you don't have control over, and are comfortable with it, I agree 100%. –  Steve Evers Dec 20 '10 at 7:40
    
"...if you can embed the youtube video upload form on your own page so that the user never has to leave your site ..." Very Very important if you need to keep user concentration on your site –  Tech Jerk Dec 20 '10 at 9:08
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I think that the youtode data api looks kind of promising code.google.com/apis/youtube/getting_started.html#data_api –  Charlie boy Dec 20 '10 at 10:13
    
"The Data API is primarily for developers who are used to programming in server-side languages. It is useful for sites or applications that wish to have a deeper integration with YouTube. This integration could be a web application allowing users to upload video to YouTube." Perfect! So long as they don't change their policy in the future ;) –  BeachRunnerJoe Dec 20 '10 at 17:22
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Is it worth the poor design choice to separate the user's content service provider (in this case, YouTube) from my website in order to save the money it would cost me to host the videos myself?

It really depends on the purpose of your website. Being dependent on YouTube means being dependent on a service that you don't control. Although YouTube is an excellent service, you have no control over what they do to the videos or the users.

The fact that you will depend on a third party service in this way, will make your website less valuable. This is something to consider in case you would ever want to make a business out of your website.

However, if you're not that serious, YouTube will do just fine.

Is there an inexpensive way for me to host the videos myself if the answer to my first question is "No!"?

Probably not. First you'd need to build something that can receive them and transcode them to a format more suitable for your website. Next you'd have to host them somewhere, perhaps using Amazon S3 or a CDN.

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