I can remember ten years ago when video was a rarity on the Internet. It primarily consisted of music videos, news stories, interviews, and other things that could be fit into the space of a few minutes. It was usually delivered through RealAudio or QuickTime, and the quality of the picture wasn't always the best. What is worse is that at that time the majority connected to the Internet through dialup. As a result one often spent more time waiting for any particular video to buffer than actually watching the video.
Thing have changed a good deal since then. These days video is ubiquitous on the Internet. Nearly every news outlet has videos of the latest stories in the news. One can watch the episodes of one's favourite TV shows at the websites of the various networks and cable channels. And then there are sites such as YouTube and IFilm, which allows users to upload their (and often other people's videos). One thing that has made all this possible is that many, perhaps most, people these days connect through the Internet through cable. No longer does one have to wait for ten minutes as a 3 minute video buffers. One can watch the video almost immediately.
One thing that these changes have made possible is the ability of people to watch movies on their computers. Now I am not talking about buying movies through a source such as ITunes. Instead I am talking about the ability of individuals to watch classic films, now in the public domain, at various video venues.
One of the best sources of movies in the public domain is Google Video. Google Video is essentially a free video sharing service, as well as a video search engine. This means that not only can one look at videos on Google Video, but one can also find videos on other parts of the Internet through its search engine. Among the movies I have found on Google Video are the original Little Shop of Horrors, Topper, It's a Wonderful Life, and Angel and the Bad Man.
Of course, the best known video sharing site is YouTube. I rather suspect that it is best known for the short, often humorous videos created by users. But one can find movies on YouTube as well. I found the original Night of the Living Dead (in public doman due to a scribal error), Nosferatu (actually, a friend found that one), The Mouse and His Child (actually I'm not sure that is in the public domain...), Aladdin and His Wonderful Lamp (an old Fox silent film), The Choppers (1961 drag race movie), and von Stroheim's The Wedding March. It is not easy to find movies on YouTube. Typing in the word movie in their search engine will often yield results that definitely are not movies, and there is no way to limit one's search to items over a certain duration (say, one hour). Still, there are movies to be found there. At least YouTube boasts a few movies. I have never found a movie on either of its rivals, IFilm or Metacafe.
Another source for free movies is In2TV, a video service operated by AOL. The primary focus of In2TV is classic television--one can watch episodes of Gilligan's Island, The Man From U.N.C.L.E., and The Adventures of Brisco County there. But they also offer a few movies, among them various Godzilla movies, Our Gang comedies, and The Man From U.N.C.L.E. feature films (basically episodes that were edited together into movies for the foreign market). AOL Video also offers movies, but sadly one had to pay for the movies there.
Things have certainly changed in the past ten years. Ten years ago, watching the first appearance of The Beatles on The Ed Sullivan Show on RealVideo, and waiting ten minutes for it to buffer, I would not have believed that one day I could watch movies for free on the Internet. Today I can. What is more, they are not that hard to find.