Vimeo's player is getting a bit of an overhaul.
Not only will the company be rolling out 4K streaming over the next few months to all users, but they're also enabling adaptive bitrate streaming, which means that the player will adapt and change the resolution of the video based on the internet connection you're viewing from (or you can select the resolution you want). While rival YouTube has done this for years, and has even started 8K streaming, it's nice to see the company catching up and starting to get into the 4K streaming game. Vimeo did start to experiment with 4K downloads and some 4K streaming starting at the beginning of 2015, but only for select users.
Another advantage of this 4K rollout is that Vimeo On Demand, their VOD service, will also get 4K streaming in addition to the 4K downloads that are already available. Here are more details from Variety on the Vimeo 4K plans:
Vimeo will initially make 4K and adaptive bitrate streaming available to a subset of its users, but will extend it to everyone in early Q1 of 2016. 4K playback will be supported on Vimeo.com as well as on Vimeo’s player embedded on third-party websites, and the company is also making adaptive bitrate streaming available on iOS and Apple TV at launch. Support for Amazon TV, Roku and Android will be added in the coming months, the company said.
Here's a bit more detail on how this is changing things currently — from the Vimeo forum (though Vimeo has mentioned they are still evaluating this change):
It is no longer possible to default videos to HD on a viewer's behalf. However, there are two important pieces of information you should keep in mind:
Once a viewer selects an HD option in the new quality menu, this option will remain selected for all future videos they view.
We are preparing to move toward a system where video quality is selected adaptively for all users. This means that if a viewer's playback environment is able to handle HD video, they will receive that automatically. These changes should be completely rolled out in the coming months.
And for an example of this variable bitrate, here is a recent Staff Pick. Though it's not very intuitive yet, if you click on the HD symbol, you get a number of streaming options — 270p, 360p, 720p, and 1080p:
It's hard to tell if they've added the 4K streaming option to any videos yet, but 4K downloads have been available for quite a while — even 2.5K downloads. While it seems that more users have issues playing videos on Vimeo as opposed to YouTube, Vimeo has always tried to put the artist first with minimal advertising and curated content. There's no question it's a nicer experience browsing videos on Vimeo, and actually being able to give people a download link is a huge advantage over YouTube's free service (though YouTube Red does allow downloads for a price). You can always use a third party service to download videos from YouTube, but it's a far nicer experience seeing a bunch of download options (including 4K), directly from the video source.
As more and more computer screens and TVs go 4K and above, we're sure to see more content being delivered in these higher-resolution formats.