Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Google and YouTube (GoogTube) -- What's Next for Social Networking? VIDEO!

Welcome to my inaugural blog post! At times, such as today, I certainly will comment on issues directly relevant to the business I run, SightSpeed (www.sightspeed.com). But, my goal is to comment on a much broader set of issues in the so-called "digital media" world that impact both businesses and consumers alike. Today's topic is Google's acquisition of YouTube ("GoogTube", as many are calling it) since this is still "hot" news. I have no doubt that Andy Abramson also will be discussing this topic, among others, at the Internet Telephony Expo now going on in San Diego (I will be on Andy's panel titled "After VoIP is Video" tomorrow afternoon).

Google's acquisition of YouTube is big news of course -- both to the winners and to the losers of that deal. The deal certainly underscores the power of video over the Internet -- and the fact that consumers have fully embraced video over the Internet.

But, while YouTube and others like it frequently are mentioned as being "social networking" sites, there really is very little social networking or interaction among those who visit those video sharing sites. These are largely passive users -- coming to view videos (and, at most, perhaps to send their favorite videos to their friends).

So, where should video sharing sites go from here to stand out from the crowd and take things to the next level? Perhaps the answer is staring them right in the face -- with VIDEO. Video sharing sites are in a position to revolutionize the world of social networking by integrating video interaction directly into the overall user experience. Imagine being able to watch a video and then immediately click to create and post a video comment to that video (which, in turn, could be viewed)? Or, how about sending your favorite video to a friend together with your own video "cover note"? Or, better yet, how about reaching out directly to the video creator with "click to call" video calling and engaging in a live one-to-one call? Or, how about having a live video forum (again "click to call") to discuss those videos now ... live? Now THAT is real social networking and community!

Want more? To make the video sharing sites more attractive and active -- i.e., to empower more visitors to those sites to become creators (rather than mere passive users) -- why not add easy to use "click to create and post" video tools? Why force users to go through the cumbersome and frequently daunting task of uploading videos from their camcorders? One step "click to create" videos could be big, big, big (and could lead to a different, and uniquely compelling, form of video content in itself). And, this new emphasis on ease of use undoubtedly would bring more and more users into the overall experience by giving them a voice (and making them more actively and enthusiastically involved). Everyone now has an easy way to try for their "fifteen minutes of fame."

The "traditional" social networking sites (both big and small) already use video -- but not in the manner described above (i.e., to take the social networking experience to the next ... and dare I say ... revolutionary level).

Video enables social networking and online interaction at a whole new level. Video interaction uniquely introduces a "human" and personal quality to the otherwise frequently impersonal and anonymous online experience. While certainly video introduces some unique issues into the equation -- and while certainly not all users are necessarily searching for this "human" element -- it strikes me that video interaction is the next logical wave in social networking.

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