How to publish videos (and audio) on PeerTube

This is a guide to publishing on PeerTube, the Fediverse’s video platform. If you want help with just watching PeerTube videos and following PeerTube accounts, click here.

Why publish on PeerTube?

There are many reasons why people choose to publish on PeerTube:

  • PeerTube videos are shown without adverts or interruptions
  • PeerTube servers don’t insert trackers or try to invade people’s privacy
  • Video makers are not at the mercy of an opaque, ever-changing algorithm that manipulates search results
  • PeerTube is part of the Fediverse, which means PeerTube accounts can be followed and interacted with from any of the millions of accounts on Mastodon etc
  • PeerTube servers are totally independent and generally fairly small, so it’s easy to communicate directly with the owner if there’s a problem
  • You can create your own PeerTube server if you want complete control, ownership and flexibility over your video platform

1. Sign up on an existing server, or start your own server?

There are two main ways to publish on PeerTube: sign up on an existing server that belongs to someone else, or start your own server.

The existing server option is much easier, and is the most popular option for individual accounts. Bear in mind some servers allow you to sign up but don’t allow uploads, so you’ll have to find a server that allows uploads for its members. Some well-run servers where you can currently sign up and upload are listed below. By default they are general servers, but ones with a specific theme have been marked:

There are also some servers where uploads are possible but you need to contact the server admin directly in order to activate the upload function for your account:

You can also look at the account addresses of existing PeerTube accounts to see where they are hosted. Their server will be mentioned in the last part of their Fediverse address. To browse existing PeerTube accounts, have a look at ⧉.

Alternatively, you can start your own server! Starting your own server is a bit more complicated, but it gives you full control over the server and is favoured by large organisations such as the European Union ⧉ or the Blender Foundation ⧉. You may also want to start your own server for other people to sign up on.

Non-technical people can create their own server through a managed hosting service ⧉ which handles all the techy stuff behind the scenes for a monthly fee. Semi-technical people can use software like Yunohost ⧉ to set up a server on a VPS. Highly technical people can use PeerTube’s full manual instructions ⧉ to set up a server.

2. Accounts vs Channels

Whatever method you use to get onto PeerTube, you will need to create an account and channels for your videos to be uploaded to. Accounts are what you use to log into PeerTube, and channels are like categories for your videos to go into.

However, there is a complication here: the channel system doesn’t work properly on Mastodon. When people view PeerTube videos on Mastodon, they will see the video as being posted by your account and not your channel. Because of this situation, it’s recommended that you use separate PeerTube accounts if you’re wanting to have channels with separate identities, with just have one channel per account and the same name for both.

Channels do work well when viewed through PeerTube, but unfortunately most of the potential audience is on Mastodon where only accounts are visible.

3. Choose your account and channel address carefully

Every account and channel has a display name in big letters, and a Fediverse address in smaller letters below that.

You can change your account or channel display names any time you want, but the account and channel addresses have to stay the same. Fediverse addresses cannot be changed for the same reason that website addresses or email addresses cannot be changed, because any change to an address would break existing connections from other sites.

So, be really sure about your addresses when you are setting up an account and an channel, as you will need to stick with those addresses. If you need to change your identity or branding, changing the display name is a much safer option than fiddling with the addresses.

4. Upload your videos gradually, one at a time or in small batches. Do NOT upload them all at once.

You can upload videos through your server’s website, or though PeerTube-compatible apps like Fedilab.

Because of the way content federates across most of the Fediverse, it is highly recommended that you upload videos gradually, perhaps once a day at most, rather than uploading a huge load of videos all at once.

If you upload all your videos at once before you have any followers, Mastodon users will see your profile as totally blank and may not know you have uploaded any videos at all. Gradual uploads allows you to build up a following, which in turn allows your videos to federate to a much wider audience, gaining you even more followers.

If you’ve already uploaded all your videos in one batch, you can either take some down and reupload them gradually as your follower numbers grow, or you can boost some from your Mastodon account (if you have one). To boost videos on Mastodon, paste the video’s web address into the Mastodon search box, and then clicking the video’s boost button in Mastodon. This will cause the PeerTube video to federate to your Mastodon server and all the servers of people who follow your Mastodon account.

If you have an account on an existing video service, you can import videos directly to your PeerTube account using the Import with URL feature ⧉, but only do this for videos you have legal permission to share. Also bear in mind the automatic import feature reduces the picture quality of the video, and it’s better to upload the original file if you can ⧉.

5. Think about what time of day you upload

Most people on the Fediverse use chronological timelines, so they see posts appearing at the time they were written. On the Fediverse there isn’t an algorithm punishing or rewarding accounts, people simply follow and see all posts from everyone they follow.

This means it’s a good idea to publish videos at a time when your potential audience is awake and looking at their timelines. If you publish when your audience is sleeping, they are much less likely to see your video. (They might still see it from searches and shares, though.)

6. Tag your videos

Lots of people on Mastodon follow hashtags and search for hashtags, so it’s important to tag your PeerTube videos so that they will be noticed by Mastodon users.

To tag a video, to go the video’s Tags section and enter a word or phrase for a tag and then press enter. After you press enter, the tag will be created, and you can add another tag (you can have up to five on a video).

You don’t need to include the symbol # on your PeerTube tags. PeerTube tags will automatically have # added when the video is viewed from Mastodon etc.

7. Let people know about your PeerTube account

If you have a Mastodon account, tell people about your PeerTube account’s address so they can follow it directly from Mastodon. For example you could post about it, put it in a pinned post, and list the account address on your profile.

If you want your videos to be as visible as possible to a wider audience, it is important to get Mastodon followers for your PeerTube account, because Mastodon has a much larger userbase than PeerTube. Mastodon followers mean each follower’s server will notice whatever videos you upload, and your videos will become visible and searchable to everyone on those Mastodon servers. However, this visibility will only apply to videos uploaded after you were followed, so that’s why it’s important to upload new content gradually as your follower numbers grow.

Alternatively, you can tell my accounts at FediFollows ⧉ and FediVideo ⧉ about your PeerTube account, and I might give it a shoutout!

8. Tell podcast app users how to subscribe to your PeerTube channel feeds

PeerTube channels can be subscribed to via most podcast apps. You might want to let people know this is an option for your PeerTube channel, there’s a guide to how to subscribe to PeerTube on podcast apps here.

Bear in mind though, like all podcasts this is one-directional so people won’t be able to like or comment from their podcast app. Also, podcast subscribers will not show up on your subscriber numbers, though it may show on your view numbers.

By the way, the same podcast link can also be used to subscribe through RSS news feed readers.

What kind of files can I upload to PeerTube? Can I upload audio-only files too?

PeerTube accepts uploads in lots of different video and audio formats. Here’s a complete list:

.webm, .ogv, .ogg, .mp4, .mkv, .mov, .qt, .mqv, .m4v, .flv, .wmv, .avi, .3gp, .3gpp, 3g2, 3gpp2, .nut, .mts, .m2ts, .mpv, .m2v, .m1v, .mpg, .mpe, .mpeg, .vob, .mxf, .mp3, .wma, .wav, .flac, .aac, .m4a, .ac3

If you upload an audio file, you can optionally add a still image as artwork. if you don’t add artwork, the audio file will play over a blank background.

Is there a PeerTube app which includes support for uploading videos?

Yes, the Fedilab app can be used to manage your PeerTube account including uploading videos. It’s mainly known as a Mastodon app, but it also includes full support for PeerTube accounts.

If PeerTube is ad-free, what does that mean for sponsorships and donations? Am I allowed to ask for donations? Am I allowed to upload sponsored videos?

Sponsorships and calls for donations are generally fine.

There are popular PeerTube accounts with sponsorships mentioned in their videos (for example The Linux Experiment ⧉), and many PeerTubers have donation links for viewers that want to support their content. This is all okay.

The “ad-free” description of PeerTube just means that there is no ad system, and there are no adverts or trackers inserted into videos or websites by PeerTube itself.

If you’re in any doubt about whether something is okay to upload to your server, check with your server admin about what is acceptable there. The server owners are the ones paying the bills for the video hosting, so it’s ultimately their call on what is allowed on their server.

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