Tim Walker: Vimeo feels like Pepsi technology, the second player in a small field

The Couch Surfer: Vimeo is beautiful like an Apple computer, with a crisply-designed interface
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The Independent Online

I can spend whole mornings searching for dumb, hilarious, charming and/or breathtaking video clips to share with friends and Independent readers.

The site doesn't actually have a market share to match other YouTube competitors such as, say, Dailymotion. But Vimeo is beautiful like an Apple computer, with a crisply-designed interface that reminds you just how cluttered and haphazard its biggest rival can be. At YouTube you have to swat away endless ads, just like the security software pop-ups that plague PCs. Vimeo emphasises quality of service, not mass appeal. Its demographic is artsy – music video directors or graphic designers, not teens filming happy slaps on their phones. Among the tastemakers who regularly launch their latest promos on the site are Kanye West, Lykke Li and Beck.

Last week I met John Lilly, CEO of the not-for-profit Mozilla, which is responsible for Firefox – the web's most popular browser besides Microsoft's notoriously inadequate Internet Explorer. Firefox has always been sleeker, more efficient and user-friendly than the market leader. Lilly used to work for Apple; so do the two companies, both lagging Microsoft in different sectors, have anything else in common? "We're both in second place, and we both have particularly passionate fans," he agrees, adding that both are also aligned in their attitude to the web. For Mozilla and Apple, it's imperative to nudge Microsoft and its browser "up to snuff", so that the internet can be free to develop as it should, and to give its users the full benefit of that development.

Microsoft might do great box office, but Firefox and Apple enjoy the critical acclaim. They're not simply products, they're anti-corporate lifestyle choices (despite Apple's multi-billion dollar business). Like Vimeo, their alternative appeal makes their users feel cooler than those who stick with their more successful rivals – and all three simply seem better than the competition. Which I guess means that comparing them to Pepsi is problematic in at least one sense: Pepsi tastes like a lick of Coke's armpit.


In the run-up to the Academy Awards, New York magazine published a lengthy piece by Mark Harris about the trail of awards dinners and photo opportunities that leads the nominees to Oscar night. Though George Clooney was never likely to beat Jeff Bridges to the Best Actor statuette, there was, Harris notes, at least one title that the star of Up In The Air had a chance of snatching from its incumbent in 2010. Clooney's status in Hollywood had been bolstered by his involvement in a telethon to raise funds for Haiti following the earthquake there in January.

"There's always one actor who the industry wants representing it," Harris writes. "Not necessarily the highest grosser or the hottest star, but the most natural leader, the guy who figures out what Hollywood should be doing. For 15 years, that's been Tom Hanks." Now, movie insiders suggested, "Clooney [has] been elected the industry's new class president."

And yet, at the Oscars ceremony itself, it was Hanks who set a responsible tone, presenting the award for Best Picture with a brief, well-turned introduction (which may, granted, have reflected the fact that the ceremony was over-running, rather than his natural concision). Hanks's reputation will only be further enhanced as Pacific, the 10-part Second World War drama miniseries that he and Steven Spielberg have produced as a follow-up to Band of Brothers, hits US airwaves this week.

Clooney, by contrast, looked sullen throughout the evening, especially when he was being mocked by hosts Steve Martin and Alec Baldwin. He even displayed his hip flask to reporters on the red carpet: if he wasn't going to win, he might as well get wasted. Not exactly prefect-worthy behaviour. Of course, it later emerged that Clooney's frowns were the star fooling around, with the hosts' complicity; no doubt the flask, too, was a wheeze. But that still makes him seem more like class clown than class president. Can Hanks consider himself re-elected?