I don’t like monopolies. I don’t like single points of failure. I don’t like giving corporations control. I don’t like YouTube. Those are reasons I started looking at how to host and distribute my own video content.
Don’t get me wrong, YouTube is an amazing platform. Being able to upload and share virtually unlimited video content in 4k resolution for free is honestly amazing. The fact that you can also get paid for that content is even more so. Sure it is only fair that they split the profits with their creators but other companies like Facebook or twitter just let you post for free and horde all the profit from your data for themselves (I know for larger creators they have payment schemes but generally someone with 1000 instagram followers is not getting a check from Facebook).
All that is cool and I don’t want that to go away. But the problem is YouTube is really the only player in the space. A few others have come and gone. There are a few rivals even now, but they are generally way worse, have much lower traffic, have limits on file size or resolution or massive bias. YouTube is biased for sure but it generally stays near the middle, their bias is toward advertisers (their main revenue source) and keeping those players happy. So their bias is in line with most main stream media. The other players in the space often spring up in reaction to some left vs. right debate and swing hard to the right with their content. Because of this most of these alternative platforms content is highly politicized and finding generic content on there is difficult. I don’t really think I have an audience there and frankly don’t want to post alongside some boot licking Trump maniacs.
Plus for me, I like to mess around with stuff, learn and tinker. So self hosting was a no brainier. I host my own websites so why not my own videos? Well, video is a different beast. I know that if I was generating any kind of traffic my set up would not work. That is the main issue with video, bandwidth. Finding a way to get the streams out to multiple people simultaneously. Then there are things like encoding and re-encoding, bit rate, auto quality switching etc.
A lot of that I didn’t dive into. Mostly because for me there is no real point. I don’t, nor will I ever, have the traffic to justify the time and expense. Instead I did what I knew would work for me and what I knew would make it so I could share my content without risk of being taken down or censored.
In fact, the main risk with YouTube is that they self implode like Twitter or Reddit. They do something stupid like forcing premium or blocking ad blockers or just stop paying their bills and they end up failing and going offline. I am not a fan of my content being held to the liabilities of other people. So outside of all other reasons I think that should be the main one to drive any content creator to at least explore this idea.
The way I did it is definitely not the best but I worked with technologies I was familiar with. If you know a better way, well you’re probably not reading this. But if you are like me and want something relatively simple then I hope my basic guide can help.
Things you will need
1.) Money, this is not overly expensive but can’t be done for free (well it could if you had access to free hardware and static IP addresses with unlimited bandwidth)
2.) A self hosted wordpress site. Doesn’t make sense to do this on a shared hosting platform. Go get a proper server. Something like a VPS with unlimited bandwidth. You could do this with a platform like go daddy or bluehost, but I would honestly recommend going to ovh.com and looking at their virtual private servers or even a proper full server and deploying on that
I am not going to walk through how to deploy a WordPress site on a server. That is something covered much better on other sites with way better documentation. Self hosting video content is not an entry level thing. The way I do it is basic but you will at least need to know how to create and host a WordPress site.
3.) A data host. This will be separate from your web hosting. This is a storage bucket designed just to hold files. They can hold anything but we will be using them to host the media files. There are lots of options here. The industry standard is the Amazon AWS s3 cloud storage object. But this is very expensive and charges for bandwidth so costs can add up really fast. This is the part most people get stuck on and realize that self hosting video is not economical. The only reason I was able to do it was because of a newer storage company called wasabi. https://wasabi.com/ . Their pricing is the only I have found that makes this remotely economical. For 5 bucks a month per terabyte of data you get unlimited upload and download. There are a few catches but for a static video file this is perfect.
4.) Some paid wordpress plugins. The free versions will work but didn’t have all the functionality I wanted. Going to need Fvplayer probably
5.) Video encoding software. I use handbrake (free) but there are other options
Total Cost: Between $15 and $90 a month. Plus FV player pro for one domain at $75
It is all depending on how large your content is and how much you invest on the WordPress site side. I have a full server but I also host multiple sites. So my server cost is much higher. For Wasabi storage I am only paying for a terabyte but after tax and conversion to CAD that comes out to $15 a month for me. But all in all you should be able to get something that works and works reliably for less than $20 a month plus the one time cost of the plugin. Over time if you add more and more content the storage cost can add up but with proper encoding most people should be fine.
Now for the implementation. This is actually fairly straightforward with WordPress and if your familier enough with that platform to set up self hosting then you should be good to go.
Just install the “Wp Offload Media Lite” Plugin and the FV player pro plugin. You don’t need the offload media plugin but it just makes it easier to upload files directly rather than having to upload them in the back end to your bucket and add from server.
You will have to edit your htaccess file to allow for larger file uploads to wordpress if you use the offload media plugin method. If you use the add from server method then you don’t have to edit the file.
Keep in mind that uploading large files over http will fail. At what file size it fails depends on your connection speed and your server speed. So even though my max file size is 125gb I could never upload a file that large with the WordPress back end. I would have to upload it to the bucket and use an “add from server” plugin to connect it to the database.
Overall with a cheap web host, some WordPress knowledge and affordable storage from Wasabi, self hosting is possible and not terribly expensive. I can’t write a guide on how to use WordPress, or web design or file set ups, but if you have some basic technical ability and the ability to google stuff deploying a set up like I have should be easy enough.
Once again, this is not going to replace YouTube and it is not free, but with a little technical skill and some cash for hosting you can self host your video files. For a small fry like me this method is fine, I don’t have the traffic that would necessitate things like a CDN (content delivery network) or on site encoding. I encode everything prior to uploading and then it’s just a matter of using the plugins and setting things up. But I like have the redundancy and I like doing things myself.
Be hard to kill. That applies in life and online. Self hosting makes you hard to kill. They can’t silence the message if it is not on their hardware.
Hope this helps someone.