The Web is not a spectator sport. Sure, you can watch videos and do countless other low-brainwave activities online, but the Web's outlets for self-expression and creativity are boundless. In fact, the medium doesn't come alive until you take advantage of the participatory Web -- the sites and services that can present you and your talents to the world.
Whatever your passion -- creating video, networking with friends or colleagues, blogging, running a business, making music, or publishing a novel -- you're bound to find a site or service that can help you pursue your goals. While many of these services are free, others may charge from a few bucks to thousands of dollars. We'll give you our favorites in each category.
Star in your own videos
The best thing about a lot of video-posting sites is that they let you earn cash based on the number of views your videos generate. And if you're a fledgling amateur, some can help you get discovered by the entertainment industry.
Metacafe claims over 1 million users a day. Equally important to video creators, though, is the site's revenue-sharing program, which pays US$5 for every 1000 views, although payments don't arrive until your clip receives 20,000 views and an average viewer rating of 3 stars (out of 5) or higher.
Another income-sharing site is Revver, which offers a 50-50 revenue split based on views and ad clicks. You can disable the ads that run before your video starts. Some Revver clips play on Verizon Wireless VCast phones, which extends your opportunity for cash and exposure.
If you're waiting for Hollywood to discover you, Crackle can be your online casting agent. This Sony-owned site limits file uploads to 100MB, so don't post your feature film here. Crackle's contests offer prizes such as pitch meetings with studio execs.
Several innovative features distinguish Veoh, a hidden gem whose video-playback quality is a notch above that of most sites. If you have an account on Google Video, MySpace, or YouTube, Veoh automatically posts your clip to those sites too (you must activate this feature first). And it imposes no size limit on video uploads -- a rarity.
It's no secret that YouTube has the biggest audience of video viewers, so naturally you'll want to post there. The site's playback quality isn't great, particularly when compared with that of Crackle and other newer sites. You won't find a video site that's easier to use, however, and its Video Toolbox section provides helpful shooting and editing tips from the pros.
Formerly known as iFilm, Spike provides a platform for fledgling filmmakers. You can embed your Spike-hosted clips on personal sites, including blogs and MySpace pages. The service offers no revenue sharing, though. Your file uploads can be as large as 500MB -- many sites limit you to 100MB.
JibJab is the place to submit video jokes: You'll find everything from stand-up routines to the ever-hilarious guy getting kicked in the groin. JibJab accepts photo, audio, and text jokes too. The site's editors decide if your bits are funny enough to post; if they're not, well, there's always YouTube.
Yahoo Video lets you link clips to your blog and drive traffic to your site.
Videos are a breeze to upload at Google Video, thanks to the service's intuitive (and bare-bones) interface. The site provides an optional desktop uploader for files larger than 100MB. It doesn't offer revenue sharing, and we'd like to see more (or at least some) integration with YouTube, but Google Video's big-name pedigree and utter simplicity make it a good place to post your videos.