Seesmic, currently in private beta (see end of post for access), appears at first glance to be a video version of Twitter. It does a good job of being that, but there's more here, as I learned about from founder Loic Le Meur.
Seesmic lets you easily record a short video (up to five minutes, which actually isn't all that short) directly from your Webcam, and it inserts that video, along with a title and brief description, into a Twitter-like feed. Just like on Twitter, Seesmic users can view all posts (the public timeline) or posts only from people they are following.
Users can link their Seesmic account to a Twitter account, if they have one, and every time they create a video, a link (with the title) will automatically get posted to their Twitter feed. In future updates, Seesmic will also post to other services: e-mail (see also EyeJot), blogs, Facebook, and YouTube. And you'll be able to specify, for each video you create, which of those services get your post. Also upcoming: The capability to create a Seesmic video via a Skype call. One feature that's available now but that Le Meur is considering removing: video file uploads. No one is using it, he says, and removing it pretty much guarantees that people won't post copyrighted content.
Seesmic could become much more than a utility to post videos if Le Meur's plan to turn it into a hub of video conversation bears fruit. When the site officially launches in February, it will support tagging and grouping of videos, which will make possible the creation of asynchronous video conversations, or forums. Now, it's true that YouTube already does this: You can respond to a YouTube video with another video. But Seesmic's design and interface feel more intimate than YouTube's, and it encourages participation in a way that YouTube does not. Le Meur even plans to open physical Seesmic cafes where users can gather to participate in these conversations. (We met in a bare room in San Francisco that will be remodeled into the first of these cafes.)
Seesmic conversions will get grouped into channels, and it's from these, not the cute cafes, that Seesmic hopes to make money. If Seesmic gets a strong user base, these focused channels--on topics like technology, politics, hobbies, and demographics--could generate decent sponsorship revenue. Users who export their videos to the other services will end up funneling readers back into these monetized channels.
Other Seesmic features on the drawing board include a system to visualize who's responding to what, the capability to send private videos to particular users, support for OpenSocial, and an API so other can build their own interfaces to Seesmic. One thing I hope is improved: The site is currently a massive Flash (and Ajax) application, and it puts a big load on your CPU.
Le Meur says Seesmic will open in February of 2008.