A couple of years ago the video aggregator scene was jam packed with startups aimed at making your video enjoyment on the Web the best it could be. Sadly, except for a very few of these services, all hit the “dead pool” like Greg Louganis practicing for the Olympics. Just like so many startups these last several years, developers provided enough bells and whistles for one reason or another, to effectively make these platforms even more complicated and cluttered than YouTube itself. People did not need more YouTubes, and the space dried up essentially. For 2009, enter a little private beta called PopScreen, a new reason to get excited about video. Why Techcrunch, Mashable, and ReadWriteWeb have not covered this as of yet is a mystery, but here it is for your viewing enjoyment.
End of an Online Video Drought
It’s been a little while since I did a beta test, and I must admit I have missed it. Doing some research to evaluate PopScreen I ran across all the old standby beta reviewers from Mashable and elsewhere (even myself), expounding as we all did about innovation and potential, often times very wrong in our “clairvoyance” about early stage stuff. As for the contenders in the video aggegator category, Mashable did several articles about the various ones. The Web is actually littered with the shattered hopes of video developers as perhaps in any other genre. Below is a short list of some of the video aggregators, and where they are now.
- Aggrega – Dead pool via trying to be a recommendation engine and targeting music video.
- Uvouch – Alive and swimming but just. This was never intended as a video aggregator as such, but a competitor to YouTube and Veoh. I actually had a hand in the development here, and the founder is a friend. The site has a following in Asia, but at Alexa 20 something thousand, not much room for growth without a face lift.
- VodPod – A nice, simple, and popular way to add, save, share and enjoy video from a large number of sources. The best competitor comparison to PopScreen.
- PikSpot – Simple, but never highly thought of, another resident at the bottom of the dead pool.
- The Daily Tube – A social slash recommendation site which probably should be sunken, but somehow floats near the drain plug awaiting its final end.
- Feedheat – A searchable social platform for video which was predictably destined for failure. It is also treading water right above the drain.
- WeShow – Human powered suggestion engine which was engineered to be as cluttered and overly complicated as any of the rest. It sank so far and so fast the T-Mobile domain page actually jumps out of my monitor when I click the url.
- bendecho – a popular UVouch clone still pumping its little legs.
- YouTubeDesktop – A very nicely done desktop video tool which as mentioned, is so complicated as to not solve any point of pain that YouTube or even the Flock browser (or other functionalism) cannot surpass easily.
Less is More Everywhere on the Web
There is a reason VodPod sits pretty near the top among all the video aggregators ever launched. It is simple, uncluttered, flexible in the right places, and most of all useful for what people really want from this space (at least most people).
PopScreen is just now being developed, with a “less is more” approach, more refined, and with more value for the users in the end:
In the images above and below, the highly refined and functional video viewer is atop the PopScreen library in both standard and full screen modes. The key thing here is, these guys have added “exactly” what is needed, and left off anything obtrusive or what we would call “over engineered”, one key to making a top notch platform these days. It is that simple and clean from landing to what is really the most complete system I have seen.
From little additions like “lights off”, which are not on the surface a big deal, to a super quick share anywhere that counts, what you are looking at could be the most refined and valuable video tool made so far. It is not there yet, but it would not take much.
What does anyone want in search and at the end of the query? Just like Google, a minimalist tool which is ultimately successful and fast. I kid you not, with this simple search above (which searches PopScreen and just about everywhere else), within seconds PopScreen intuitively and safely helped me effectively “empty” my YouTube account. More importantly perhaps, setting my video within a platform for not only viewing them in the best possible light, but for ultimately doing whatever I wanted with them. Except of course two or three things I will mention which actually might make PopScreen “It” as far as video is concerned. As a video Digg, a video community, a video library, or a video anything if they play their cards right. The only thing I found wrong with it were the Pop It toolbar icon (not the function), and a little fuzziness or ugliness in the interface which pops up using the tool bar function.
Why Video Was So Hard
YouTube revolutionized how the world thought about and interacted with visuals for the most part. Other fairly refined and quality video sites have popped up, never really grabbing their share of what has become one of Google’s most valuable properties. Startups like Veoh, Metacafe, and some others engaged us for a while and still do for some. But none, not even YouTube itself has really made online video as easy as watching TV and as interactive and social as they could be. They are in effect incomplete. So, hundreds tried to capitalize on video aggregation, loosing sight however of the simplicity people need. It is almost amazing that no one ever thought of “hammering down” this functionality, usability, and yes aesthetic to where PopScreen is now. Video was a hard space not so much because of competition in the space, but because the competition sucks.
So, using the best of other applications, creating something elegantly simple, yet highly sophisticated on the back end, just never got done. This is true in so many spaces in the startup world. From bookmarking sites to Facebook and Twitter, the balance between flexibility and simplicity has still yet to be perfected. In the end what we may see are what you might call mini-aggregators endlessly interactive with one another. Or in the case of PopScreen, used by larger frameworks like Google as tools much like Firefox add ons, all be it much nicer and more friendly.
Where Does A Startup Like PopScreen Go?
It has been some time since I got excited about a startup in this space. The point for PopScreen is, with the delicate balance of function and form these brilliant guys have begun, the end of their rainbow is pretty much the sky if they place their cards right. Let’s play “for instance” and say Google loves this tailored approach to utilizing video. Even suggesting video, searching video, integrating it, mashing it! Oh! There is one of the tools PopScreen could implement which would blow away competitors – editing and reordering all the video on the Web. Well, not so many millions would want to mash video, but then a collaboration with? A top 10 video editing software? You see the implications here I guess.
I was thinking of YouTube having something like 80 percent of the video market covered, and then pop-screening the rest to pieces, and grabbing most of the rest for what would become? You extrapolate that. So many platforms have very nice video elements; ThisMoment, as I mentioned Flock the browser, plug-ins here and there. The reason I like PopScreen so much is that continued development along the lines they have initiated, will result in something extraordinary if only a tool.
There will be no “all in one” as we once thought, but nice tools like this centered on a hub I think – that hub probably being Google. Far fetched ideas perhaps, but the reader should check PopScreen out with an open mind and imagine I think. It may just be the video tool for everyone? My last comment on PopScreen is that the most impressive thing about it is that it operates nearly flawlessly. Uncommon for a beta startup.