Flip Video Dead Long Live Personal Video

flip video

The Flip video camera. It was simple. A flip out USB plug in, a single lens, a small screen and one button made up the Flip video camera.


Flip brought personal video recording back in the reach of ordinary people.

No more big over the shoulder recorder. No more expensive  tapes or disks. No training required.

Cost was also tackled. Not just the rich neighbors or eccentrics could afford to record video. You, the guy with a part time job, could afford to record video.


Mom and dad purchased a video camera for vacations. The local geek recorded science experiments. One overzealous father recorded his son’s birth. Otherwise video cameras weren’t given out to kids or grandmothers.

Flip was small, portable, and ran on regular batteries.

Durability made them something you could trust with your toddler or the family klutz.

These two features combined to make this the everything video camera – kids goofing off, mom recording the kid’s birthdays, and teachers taking them into the classroom.


Flip cameras came with a USB stick that literally flipped out of the side. This plugged straight into the USB port on any computer. PC, Mac, even Unix boxes could use the video.

Video wasn’t recorded in a proprietary format. Recordings weren’t DRM protected. Media could be used straight off of the device and uploaded anywhere you could post video.

Why did it die

Negligence and competition.

The company behind Flip was purchased by a rather large firm, Cisco. Was Cisco doing video? Even cameras? Media in general? No. It’s not clear where leadership though the Flip video camera fit in. ┬áThis lead to neglect of improvements that might have saved it.

This leads into the competition side. Because Flip brought video to general public, it made them aware video didn’t have to be expensive. Camera companies saw this as well. Many moved to give up their sacred cows around video recording.

Canon, Nikon, Sony and more jumped in the game. At first there where more single purpose video recorders, then it happened, video came to the point and shoot market.

My current pocket camera, a Canon SD780 IS, shoots HD video. Guess what the 780 stands for?

Is easy and cheap personal video gone

No. The revolution begun with Flip resulted in ever cheaper and feature rich pocket cameras, where most of the camera market share is. You can buy the SD780 for under $200 and get 12 megapixels and HD video.

Video doesn’t just show up in point and shoots though. Modern DSLRs now include HD video as well. The quality is amazing.

On top of that, many cameras now accept external microphones.

What’s next

You recording video is next. Don’t wait for the perfect camera or super HD video to be cheap. Go today and purchase a camera with video built in. Keep your eyes open as well for Flip cameras going on sale.

Have one? Don’t throw it away. They are still great tools. Donate it a local school, Sunday school, or even a non-profit you love. Be sure to put in fresh batteries.

You and Video

You! What are you doing with video? Got your own YouTube channel? Sharing on Vimeo? Share your best stuff here in the comments, with me on Twitter (@tojosan), or on your own blog.


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