Loic le Meur, Seesmic: Micro-Vlogging, Beyond The Concept

Seesmic

It is undeniable: the booming trends on the Web are micro-blogging and video. Therefore, how can you doubt that a micro-vlogging formula will tear the roof off? Seesmic, the company started by French entrepreneur Loic Le Meur, aims to fill this spot in the online video space.

Seesmic

The idea for Seesmic is fairly simple: It replicates the experience of comment threads common to all blogs: People can post video comments and reply directly to each other. Uploading a video to the Web is a lengthy process, but with Seesmic, it is a click away, which makes video commenting a breeze.

The concept is very novel and still looking to gain significant traction. Everything is done to make this happen though: Beyond a video social network, Seesmic is a video comment technology provider. It offers a freely accessible read/write API (from what I understood), which is already being used by more than a dozen technology partners. If you always wanted your visitors to communicate through video on your site, well now you can enable this. According to Loic Le Meur, the API is a no-brainer.

thwirlThe Seesmic team went a step further in the social media game. In April of last year (2008), the company acquired the Twitter desktop client Thwirl, by far the most popular Twitter app on the market at the time. The team worked hard on the development of this Adobe Air app, and turned it into a real social media companion by enabling posting to Seesmic, Friendfeed (I don’t remember if you could already do this before the acquisition), laconi.ca, identi.ca, and more recently, through a partnership with ping.fm, they added at least twenty other social networks to the list (the dev team is also playing around with the newly released Facebook status API for 2-way communications with the Facebook platform).

I told Loic I would be a more avid user of Seesmic if I could record comments from my phone. He told me that

  1. iPhone/G1 don’t record video yet (good point!), and
  2. they are working on a Thwirl iPhone app.

All of a sudden, it made more sense why Seesmic acquired Thwirl, because at first it wasn’t clear to me why a video company would bother to spend time and money on a Twitter client.

The limit of the Seesmic concept is people’s natural shyness. For example, Seesmic’s most noticeable publishing partner is Techcrunch: I find it very intimidating to drop a video comment on a site that attracts several millions known-to-be-bitchy visitors a month, and I am not the only one. The Seesmic team is well-aware of people’s shyness, and Loic told me they are working on developing more private video environments. I guess that it would be easier for me to leave a video comment to my Facebook friends for example.

Seesmic already secured two rounds of funding ($12 million), which gives the company leeway to explore a few ideas before finding the winning combination.

HyveUp – Ron Hose, Cindy Wu – TokBox

tokbox

A company is bringing a new twist to the rise of online video communications: TokBox. TokBox is a dead simple way to video communicate with one another, no downloads necessary. The offer is threefold: Instant videochat, video email, and video conference . The user interface is really user-friendly, and the team has developed a few tools to help you get in the loop.

The company was founded by Ron Hose and Serge Faguet in 2007. The idea of TokBox grew out of a personal need to create a richer way to communicate with friends and family. TokBox is different because you can start a face-to-face discussion in a single click, no downloads necessary. You will find a friend finder on the site to see who of the people you know are already using the service (and invite those you wish to interact with). For the socially outwarded, TokBox offers a ‘Meet New People’ feature. In this area, you get to call anyone who checked the ‘I’m available for calls’ at the top of the page.

TokBox’s technology creates a unique URL for each discussion. Say you want to create an improvised conference call, simply open a conference call page, copy the URL of the page, and send it via Twitter, email, or IM. The no-download factor is definitely a gate-opener in the case of TokBox. It takes down the barrier of: searching for a software, downloading it, installing it and setting it up (think Skype). Organizing a conference call for example is not that easy when none of the participants share the same video conf software.

The Founder of TokBox defines his product as a communication tool rather than a Web 2.0 software. TokBox is a private communication environment. TokBox is better to stay in touch with friends, family, and to handle professional videocalls. While no business model has been officially adopted, TokBox looks at the customer service market as a profitable outlet for the company.

One last thing I should mention about TokBox is the video quality. The video quality is the best of all the video chat systems out there: the image is cleaner, pixel-less. The purpose of video chatting instead of phone calling is to add facial expressions in the communication mix. Up until TokBox, video chat services have been doing a lousy job at providing a great video quality. TokBox doesn’t make video chatting easier, it also makes it better.

Read more:
Adobe Air app for TokBox – Today’s Review
#1 reason why I love Tokbox – Fan on Flickr
Video Calling Integrated into Facebook Chat – Hit Search
Dear World-wide Fan Base: Thanks! – TokBox blog

HyveUp – Patrick Koppula – FFWD

ffwd

The user-generated video phenomenon has grown so huge in the past couple of years that a large number of video-sharing platforms have sprouted on the back of Youtube’s success. The new online video landscape is a very confusing one for end users who have a hard time differentiating the unique offers of each video platforms. Video search technologies are still at a primary stage, meaning that finding a good video still remains a quest on the Web. StumbleUpon brought us the first generation of video personalization engine by offering a service that understands what type of video an individual user digs. The StumbleUpon video experience isn’t super fine-tuned though: After too many “skip this video”, users get fed up and leave the site.

Bringing videos to users on the basis of their personal preferences is the only solution to put some order in the online video chaos. Patrick Koppula, Founder and CEO of FFWD, is addressing this need. Before FFWD, Patrick Koppula was the man behind the music recommendation engine iLike. He felt that what he brought to music discovery, he could bring it to video discovery. FFWD is a video personalization engine, still in private alpha so far, that will launch public in the Fall of this year.<

The Channel Paradigm

Once a user signs up to the service, the first thing he should do is subscribe to channels. FFWD’s first differentiation in the video space is that instead of mainly looking at the similarity between two videos, it looks at the similarity between two channels withholding those videos: A channel holds more information about a withholding video than the video itself. For Patrick Koppula, a channel is the environment in which a video grows: A channel says as much about a video as a video says about a channel.

The Social Graph

As much as a channel reveals a lot about a video, a social graph reveals a lot about an individual. On FFWD, users can connect to their Facebook profile (right now an alpha FB app is available – it scans your video tastes) or Friendfeed accounts. With this information in hand, FFWD looks at the videos you and your friends like, and includes it in its algorithmic personalization formula.

The “Skip This Video” Behavior

In the end, despite all the calculus operated in the background to provide the best fit video to an individual, nothing beats the “skip this video” button that is very prevalent in the user interface, as you can see in the video. FFWD also takes into account how much of a video is watched, and pairs this data with the ones above to constantly fine-tune your video personalization experience.

Beyond the www

FFWD’s upcoming launch created a micro-buzz at the Under the Radar last June, because the service is also planned to run on the Wii and other types of electronic devices. The Wii is the entry portal to the television set. By accessing homes with Wii-furnished TV sets, FFWD is making a strong statement that it is not only a new generation of online video service, it is a new generation of TV surfing. Since the service is not public yet, it’s hard to draw conclusions or get too excited about the promises FFWD makes. So far, you can visit the site’s homepage and sign up for the Fall 2008 launch, or install the FB app mentioned above. Jason Kincaid made a good point in the Techcrunch’s review of the startup:

“ffwd’s success is going to lie entirely on its ability to generate accurate channels – users that have to click ‘next’ too many times are liable to leave the site for good.”

Learn more:
Matchmine to power personalized channel on ffwd – The Inquisitr
The dish on the next StumbleUpon: Ffwd – Webware
ffwd offers a personalized video channel that adapts to your tastes – VentureBeat
FFWD launches passive but personalized video site – TheDeal.com
ffwd Looks Cool – Makes Me the Curator – My Media Musings

HyveUp – Mark Trefgarne – LiveRail

liverail

Monetizing videos is a challenge that HyveUp is flirting with since it has become a stand-alone company. The choice is wide: Revver, Brightcove, Videoegg, and even Adsense for Youtube’s videos. They all have great services, but video is not yet the best revenue-generating medium, because it definitely lacks an ad service completely dedicated to placing the right ad for the right viewer in the right video in a right fashion. CTR and videos are not best buddies yet.

Last Saturday, I walked to downtown San Francisco to interview Mark Trefgarne, Founder/CEO of LiveRail. Think of LiveRail as the DoubleClick for videos. As Mark mentions in the video, DoubleClick already serves ads for videos, but their technology has been built for banner ads from the ground up. DoubleClick’s video weakness is LiveRail’s strength.

LiveRail is for ad networks, publishers and publishing platforms. It offers a compelling ad serving technology, along with an unobtrusive ad insertion solution (see example at the end of the video). LiveRail doesn’t have an ad sales team. Their focus (at least for the moment) is to fine-tune their ad serving technology, optimize their targeting tools, and enable ad insertion in any given video player out there.

Online video is an ever-growing medium. As we have seen recently between Youtube and TiVo, TV content and Web videos are slowly converging to form a whole. This convergence will happen if someone’s there to facilitate the shift to the online medium. LiveRail wishes to provide the solution for this emerging need.

More info about Liverail:
ReadWriteWeb: LiveRail Video Ads – One Month Out
Mashable: LiveRail is a Video Ad Distribution Network
Webtvwire: LiveRail Advertising | The Future Of Online Video Advertising? (recommended)

Microsoft’s Winning Bet On Video

microsoft

We’ve all been hearing lately about startups failing to deliver a profitable distribution model for content creators. Now – thank you Ad Lab – we’re seeing smarter technologies emerging to tackle the apparently tricky online video distribution dilemma.

Contextual Ads for Video. Through speech recognition, this technology enables ads to be dynamically served based on the content discussed in the video.

I’m really impressed by the way that Microsoft is handling online video. First, this really smart and simple advertising solution will most probably have more effect than a clickable branded banner.

Plus Microsoft is developing its Smart Trailers technology, a great feature that analyzes a movie file and spits a trailer out. While Google complains that it’s losing money on Myspace with their text ads – whereas Ford is satisfied enough with the even lamer Myspace video show Roommates to sponsor the second season – Microsoft has bet on video as the next best thing on the Web and this strategy is starting to show amazingly coherent results.

With or without Yahoo!, Microsoft is definitely shaking the ladder on top of which Google is starting to slip gently back down.