Even before Google stepped in and bought it out, YouTube was the King Kong of video-sharing sites. Its success has spawned an impressive number of rivals – some merely clones, others offering unique twists. And while you may have a deep affection for YouTube, there are better-looking alternatives elsewhere.

We looked at 50 online video-sharing services before settling on the 10 we've covered here (click here for the full list of sites, links and comparisons). We also looked at the business end of things: is there any shared advertising revenue to be earned, and what's the potential audience of each site?

We looked at how easy it was to upload clips, the design of the embedded player, privacy and sharing options and other noteworthy features.

Quick links

The only video format supported across the board was QuickTime. Few sites limit clip length or the number of videos you can upload, but many restrict file size to 100MB.

For quality, our top choice was Blip.tv. It permits users to stream and download the original high-quality file - it also offers video that's ideal for iPod and mobile playback. Stage6's DivX compression gets high marks too.

Most services convert video uploads to good- but not great-looking Flash 8.0 format, which uses the On2 VP6 codec. However, some - notably YouTube - still use the Flash 7.0 format, which relies on the Sorensen Spark codec.

Vimeo also allows users to download (but not stream) the original high-quality file, while DivX Stage6, our second-placed service, lets viewers stream or download the original files - with a couple of small catches.

Not surprisingly, since it's run by the people behind the DivX format, Stage6 requires you to convert video to that format before you upload it. Thankfully, the site links to some free and painless conversion software (Dr DivX). The resulting video quality ranks as the best we saw outside of an original source file.

Next page: wealth, fame and copyright restrictions

Fame and fortune

If you want your video to reach the largest possible audience, you need to follow the eyeballs. In South Korea that means using Cyworld, while in France you'd probably use Dailymotion. The rest of us have YouTube.

Independent producers looking for profit should try Blip.tv, Brightcove, Metacafe, Revver or Veoh. Each of these video-sharing sites will split advertising revenue with you.

On Revver you earn 20 percent of the revenue from videos you've shared (on, say, your Revver page or a personal blog) even if they're not yours; the remaining 80 percent is split between the creator and Revver.

Mobile uploads

Blip.tv and Jumpcut let you upload videos captured with your cameraphone by attaching them to an email. YouTube uses MMS. However, some mobile operators limit the size or duration of the clip you upload.
Even if you're posting embedded footage on your personal blog, most players link back to their website in some way. This raises the possibility of stumbling upon inappropriate video, comments or advertising. Many sites have family filters enabled by default.

Protect your copyright

Read the site's terms and conditions before you upload. Most have licence agreements that grant them the right to host, transcode and distribute your video and make money by selling advertising around it.

Usually, these are basic agreements that let you retain copyright and the ability to remove a clip at all times. Most sites inform visitors that your video is not in the public domain. Some, such as Blip.tv and Revver, use Creative Commons licences. With these you can decide whether you want to require attribution, restrict commercial use or allow use under specified terms.

YouTube shares video, not income

Surprisingly, YouTube and Google Video's revenue programmes are fairly inaccessible to the average Joe. YouTube's Partner Program is for media giants and hand-picked individuals only, while Google limits its high-quality download scheme to producers of at least 1,000 hours of video.

By contrast, Brightcove permits you to create paid-for downloads and distribute them through AOL Video; Veoh has a similar system. Both companies allow you to keep a 70 percent share of the profits.

Some parting advice: consider the tax implications of any income you earn from video sites. Go beyond a certain threshold and it's likely that the IRS will expect its slice. Check with your accountant.

It's worth the effort, however. At the time of writing, the top earner in Metacafe's Producer Rewards programme had collected more than $45,000 (about £23,000).