At Tuesday's Under the Radar conference in Mountain View, Calif., start-up junkie Patrick Koppula took to the stage to pitch his latest effort called Ffwd. I briefly mentioned it in a roundup of other companies, but it's worth digging a little deeper into what could become an incredibly addictive way to watch Web videos on your computer and at home on your big-screen television.
Ffwd is taking a page from recommendation/browsing service StumbleUpon by offering a way for people to click on a single button and instantly jump to new content. It's the kind of activity that encourages short-attention-span videos, or at least skipping videos without an immediate hook.
The UI is centered around an embedded video player and an oversized button that does the skipping. As I said Tuesday, this is where things get interesting. Ffwd lets users categorize any and every piece of content into three or more different channels. This categorization lets users skip to another set of similar content where that same video resides. Koppula told me this keeps people from reaching dead ends, and lets them discover new content without having to use any sort of search tool.
Another standout aspect of the service that it figures out what content you'll like based on what you've already listed as your interests. It will jack into your social-networking profile or content mentions on tracking services like FriendFeed and form a record of your tastes to make recommendations on channels or certain pieces of content.
The plans for a Nintendo Wii interface are also ambitious. While StumbleUpon has had its own Wii front end since early 2007, Ffwd will be more tied into the experience people are getting on their regular computers. Video favorites will transfer over, as will bookmarked channels. Like StumbleUpon, users navigate with just the directional pad, but won't have to type as much with what Koppula considers the Wii's weakpoint: its onscreen keyboard.
The communal chat rooms might be the strangest feature (and I'm not quite sure I get them). Koppula pitched it to me as an online version of Mystery Science Theater, the show that would feature comedians chatting over the dialogue tracks of feature-length films. Ffwd will feature something slightly similar with a select group of 12 users who can add videos and chat about them while everyone else watches it live. Lycos did something similar with its Cinema service that was quietly launched last month.
Ffwd is launching in private beta in the next few months with a content platform to follow. In the meantime there's a Facebook app that has nothing to do with the product but is a fun way to test how the app scans your tastes. We'll have a hands-on report and some reader invites when the service goes live later this summer.