Universal Media Player for the Distributed Web

October 30, 2006

Pete Cashmore of Mashable is a visionary.

Last February Pete wrote about the idea of a Universal Media Player:

Flickr, YouTube, Stickam, del.icio.us, Revver and many more Web 2.0 players have successfully employed widgets to drive traffic back to their own sites. eBay and Amazon take the next step by incentivizing their widgets (you earn a % of any transaction). And finally there’s the widget to end all widgets: the indefatigable Google Adsense. Ultimately, I wonder whether we even need to drive traffic back to the originating site – it seems feasible to have all the interaction taking place within the widget itself (and in fact this already happens with Adsense). Nonetheless, you still need a centralized site where the user can create his widgets (or do you?).

The answer to your parenthetical question, Pete, is no.  In the post-destination-website era (a.k.a. “the distributed web”), your rich media content will be splashed across hundreds of different web pages, yet you will be able to remotely control and track it all from one simple console, accessible directly from any Universal Media Player, on any web page.

Sorry it took 10 months for your vision to become reality, Pete.

Wanna sneak peak?  Sign up for SplashCast beta.


Don’t Upload…or else.

October 30, 2006

Uploading the latest track from your favorite artist to your Myspace page looks like it will become problematic in the near future. And this news comes out just days after it was reported that their numbers were down.

NEW YORK (Reuters) – News Corp.’s MySpace.com on Monday said it had licensed a new technology to stop users from posting unauthorized copyrighted music on the social networking Web site and oust frequent violators of its policy.

Short of migrating to other social network sites that are a little less, shall we say, restrictive, what will the kids do? Do we really think they are going to stop sharing music?

Pete Cashmore at Mashable mentions in his post about MySpace tackling the copyright issue that they are sure to annoy their user base with these restrictions. And deleting their pages (and their friends) will will certainly not improve their recent decline in numbers. Seems like there is a compromise here. Some artists are working with the kids by providing some content for free… as well as making a statement.

Weird Al has a track on his latest album called Don’t Download This Song and he has made it available on his MySpace page as a download.

Jack Black has produced a satirical commentary on piracy and makes half of the Pick of Destiny movie available for free from iTunes.

Can’t we all just play nice and share… legally?

Brightcove Tries To Go Consumer

October 29, 2006

Techcrunch tonight announced the launch of the new Brightcove, their attempt to bring video syndication to the YouTube / MySpace generation. 

It will be interesting to see if Brightcove, which has been become associated with high-end, professional video only will be able to lose some their slickness to attract the polish-adverse amateur producers and web publishers. 

The important questions for Brightcove are A) do they have the ingredients to ignite viral adoption of their syndication program, B) will they really appeal to the edgy, creative indie / amateur producers. 

To me, they still feel very corporate and I think it will be hard for them to overcome that image.  Marshall at Techcrunch talks about their mega-experienced management team… that’s great, but I wonder if in some respects they’d be better off working out of a garage.

We obviously love the concept of what they’re trying to do — media syndication for everyone — and wish them the best of luck. 

We will be keeping a close eye on them as we launch SplashCast.

Security, Control, Trackability in Online Media Distribution

October 29, 2006

The Ze Frank vs. Rocketboom video blog popularity contest sparked a lot of chatter this past week on how to best measure the value of web-based media shows (podcasts / vlogs / vodcasts / whatever).  Is it possible that Ze Frank’s shows are worth more than Rocketboom’s, even though Rocketboom could have 10 times more viewers?  Techcrunch, Robert Scoble, and Haydn Shaughnessy, among many others, all weighed in and offered their insight.

This discussion ties directly into what we believe is the most critical discussion for the media world right now. 

As traditional print, radio, and television continue to spill onto the web, and as blogs, podcasts, and vodcasts begin their migration from the web back to traditional print, radio, and television (Rocketboom is now available on TiVo), producers and publishers have a real challenge in controlling and tracking content distribution — and its monetization — across all these intersecting channels. 

Further, the democratization of media distribution that is currently taking hold — anyone can broadcast any content to anyone else in the world — creates an amazing opportunity as well as a very stressful environment for both copyright owners and publishers. 

As Marshall at Techcrunch points out: “Ze Frank prominently asks his viewers to keep his videos out of sites like YouTube, presumably so he can track the numbers closely.”  Meanwhile, Rocketboom is syndicating its shows as far and wide as possible.

Is there a way for copyright owners and publishers to leverage viral distribution of media on the web in a secure, controlled, and trackable manner?  Is that media nirvana?

Media Syndication & Collaborative Filtering, Because Humans Are Lazy

October 28, 2006

Why is Google worth $144 Billion?

Why has NetFlix killed Blockbuster?

Why did Amazon.com kill the local bookstore?

Because people are lazy.  People want their stuff — whether it’s a movie, a job, or a boyfriend — delivered to them, simple, easy, and fast, without much thought.  This may be depressing commentary for our species, but seems to be proving true, over and over again.

People have become overwhelmed by all the choices they have, in both the real world and the virtual world.  With the proliferation of social networks and user-generated media on the web, this is getting exponentially worse.  Kim wrote about this yesterday.

Every time a new social networking or video sharing web site pops up (a daily occurrence), the VC’s on Sand Hill cringe and run for cover.  I really like Robert Young’s thoughts on this in his GigaOM post yesterday.  So not only are we overloaded by the sheer volume of media, it’s totally fragmented and scattered among thousands of “destination” web sites — usually without any meaningful context.  YouTube is a great example of media without context.

One of the solutions to this media overload is collaborative filtering.  I want people who are smarter and hipper than me, and who share my tastes, to filter out the junk and deliver me just the good stuff.  Amazon.com pioneered this and took it mainstream.  YouTube still has a bit of room to improve their social filtering capabilities.

The other part of the solution is media syndication.  Once the good stuff has been identified by people smarter and hipper than me, I want it aggregated, packaged up and delivered to me; I don’t want to have to go out of my way to find and collect it. 

With SplashCast, we are attempting to marry collaborative filtering with media syndication, and make it easy, easy, easy for everyone. 

Because we are a lazy species.

Social Network Site Overload?

October 27, 2006

The Wall Street Journal reports that social-networking sites such as MySpace and Facebook are losing visitors and speculates that there is also an increase of users deleting their pages. Market saturation, guerrilla marketing tactics, and an increase in too many “creepy friends” are all sited as possible reasons for the decline of new visitors and page deletions.


I believe that another very possible reason is because there are so many choices now, people are dispersing. The fact is, various social networking sites are popping up almost daily now. For example, Vox offically launched their site yesterday, and many of these new sites are aiming at more exclusive target markets.

In addition to the ones everyone knows about, (i.e. MySpace, FaceBook, Friendster) we also have (to name just a few!):

  • MOG, (a Musical Nudist Colony???) for the music purists
  • Jobster, for employment seekers
  • YouSuckIRule, for those that want to go “evil”
  • TagWorld, for those with tag addictions
  • Downtown Women’s Club, for professional business women
  • Tribe, for those wanting to network in their local community
  • Maya’sMom, for the social parent
  • and the list goes on and on…

With the plethora of choices, it is no wonder people are deleting pages in one site and jumping onto another. But now the dilemma… I have friends on MySpace, Mog and Tribe. I can’t keep up with maintaining a page on all of them, but I want to stay connected and keep access to some of the great media content that they generate or find.

In a post by Byrne Hobart, he ponders “Whats next for ‘Social Networking’ sites?” Hobart states, …”These sites host a few kilobytes of text and a much larger volume of movies, pictures, and music, but the only reason all that content gets centralized on a single page is that no one has found an effective way to decentralize it… (hint: It’s a matter of getting people to comply to standards, not making up a new technology)”

Yes! Media syndication for the rest of us please.

Widgets or A Whole New World of Publishing?

October 27, 2006

Haydn Shaughnessy writes that the future of blogging is in the sidebar. He corrects himself in the comments, stating specifically that the blog will change quite a bit in the next year. That seems far more true.

Om Malik provides a bigger picture of what widgets mean. Widgets are on the web. They’re on the desktop. Apple has built widgets into their OS. Widgets, Malik wrote for Business 2.0 “are part of a movement that’s exploding the Web into millions of tiny chunks and reassembling it for a new generation of Internet users.”

I’d argue that what we are really seeing is a whole new world of publishing that channels across the web. RSS is the transport for these media pieces. It is the syndication format that is under the hood, providing what it does best, horsepower and fast delivery to people wherever they may be. Most people may not know about RSS. But that’s not important. They’ll get the feeds that they want.

For instance, I check out Kris Krug’s flickr stream because his photos are so rock star. His photos are the main show. But what if I want to post his photos on my web site? I can use a widget from Flickr to get his photos posted on my blog sidebar as he updates his photo page.

Over the next year we’ll see photo feeds like the ones from Kris not just appearing in sidebar flickr badges. They’ll be seamlessly embedded into the blog entries themselves, no different than traditional static images. They’ll also be part of shows that mix the media from Kris and other talented people into micro channels, syndicated all over the web. In other words, they won’t just be sidebar fun. They’ll act as the next evolution of micro-publishing, where millions of tiny chunks of media get distributed to places where they are not just a sidebar gadget but serve as the main show themselves or as integral media elements within a larger HTML context.