HOW TO: rip video from sharing websites

Peter Sbarski

EDITOR’S NOTE: Today Peter Sbarski joins the writing team. Peter is a specialist in open source and internet related topics and has previously written for APC Magazine and The Inquirer. Welcome Peter!

The other day while watching the excellent “Father and Daughter” by Michael Dudok de Wit on YouTube I thought about one solely lacking feature of all video sharing websites: the saving of files for offline use.There are a number of reasons why YouTube Google Video and the rest of the pack don’t allow users to save files.

First there are copyright issues which are already pretty murky. Second and this reason is sadly a lot more prosaic websites want repeat visitors. Given these it is hard to form a business case for allowing downloads.Nevertheless there are a number of ways for saving videos for posterity without downloading software or browser extensions.

There are actually sites that make a living from converting online videos to common formats (e.g. avi) and providing download links.

Here’s a quick overview of the creme de la creme of these websites.The first service you should check out it Zamzar. To download a file from YouTube the user needs to follow a simple four step process: specify the URL (e.g. select file format to convert to (e.g. avi) enter email address and click on “convert”.Zamzar will retrieve the file convert it and then send an email with a download link. The download link expires in 24 hours.


Zamzar works well but the fact that an email address needs to be given out is not a good thing if you’re (understandably) worried about what sort of lists it might end up on.

An alternative is Vixy. It only supports five formats – Zamzar has more – but it doesn’t need your email. The user is given a download link as soon as the file is uploaded and converted.


The third site you should know about is Media Convert. It’s arguably the most powerful and flexible out of the bunch. Its interface is a little convoluted but it supports a lot of file formats and is faster than a trojan compromising a new Windows XP installation.

Media Convert

Both Zamzar and Media Convert work with formats other than video too. You can upload image sound and document files from your computer and have them converted to different formats seamlessly and quickly.

Do you know of any other worthy additions to this list? Let us know in the comments below.