Mainstream video sharing platforms can be difficult places to host artworks reliably. With unpredictable terms of service, algorithmically driven removal, and elusive support staff, videos are always at risk of suddenly disappearing without a clear path of retrieval. In order to ensure ongoing access to video artworks and our institutional archive, Rhizome is launching our own PeerTube instance: video.rhizome.org (VRO).
Infinite video storage is not a good business
On May 16, 2023, Google announced that it would be updating its inactive account policy: “Starting later this year, if a Google Account has not been used or signed into for at least 2 years, we may delete the account and its contents – including content within Google Workspace (Gmail, Docs, Drive, Meet, Calendar), YouTube and Google Photos.”
While Google later amended this announcement to exclude accounts with YouTube videos from automatic deletion, this is a reminder that Google has the power to do this, and at some point will follow through because infinite video storage is not a good business.
It is a necessary and affirming practice to make decisions about which content to keep and release, and at Rhizome, we encourage and empower users and communities to manage their own digital archive curation rather than relying on mainstream platforms. If you love to watch lady on a bike, bearded dragons playing Ant Crusher, Mid-West Freestyle Canoe 2007, Willow gets shooted by finger gun!, and other vintage videos, consider using some of the resources we recently shared in our preservation Office Hours to save them! Tools like yt-dlp, Rhizome’s Conifer web archiving service, or ArchiveWeb.Page can help to preserve videos hosted on services like Youtube.
The Fediverse at Your Fingertips
The risks involved in platform dependence were highlighted for us in stark fashion when Ann Hirsch’s horny lil feminist— presented by Rhizome and the New Museum as an online exhibition in 2015—was taken down by Vimeo. In order to keep the project online, we initiated our own node in the fediverse service, PeerTube to host the videos embedded in Hirsch’s project website.
PeerTube was created as an independent, peer-to-peer alternative to commercial video hosting platforms. It’s one of many services that is designed to integrate with ActivityPub, enabling individuals, institutions, or collectives to create their own platforms, on their own terms.
Thanks to an Explorer Award, a new grant from Filecoin Foundation and Unfinished, Rhizome developed this node into a robust video archive at video.rhizome.org. Users can now discover and stream content including artists’ works and talks. Rhizome also uses this instance of PeerTube as a primary home for documenting ongoing programs and events. For now, our instance remains closed and is updated by only our staff because we are not resourced to perform effective and responsible content moderation on a large scale.
Through Rhizome’s usage and advocacy, we hope to contribute to conversations around adoption of PeerTube as well as development of new functionality. We will occasionally use this instance as a testbed for experimental PeerTube features, especially those that improve accessibility and curation.