Vringo bills itself as a video ringtone service, but don't let that fool you. My theory is that the company uses the term to convince traditional media types--like those at AlwaysOn's conference this week, where I heard about Vringo--that it's a viable business model for mobile marketing. "Ringtone," after all, is an easily-recognized buzzword, and it's pretty well-known that tech-savvy kids are willing to shell out money to pay for ringtones of the hottest Top 40 tracks. (I might not be a kid, but I admit that I did pay for a vintage Super Mario Bros. ringtone.)
In reality, Vringo is a video-sharing platform for cell phones. We've all heard that now that video has conquered the PC and the iPod, it's going to move on to the mobile handset, and Vringo is aiming to capitalize on that. Here's how it works: you, and any friends with whom you want to share clips, download the free Vringo app. Then, you surf Vringo via the Web (on a PC or mobile device) and choose what video clips you'd like to use as the ringtones when you call particular friends. Founder Jonathan Medved suggested it as a potential goldmine for movie and music marketers, demonstrating a Vringo call that used a clip from the movie Wedding Crashers. But you also can upload your own video content and use that, too. Yes, it costs money if the content's licensed--so it'll be free for you to share a Vringo clip of your cat, but not one of Nelly Furtado's latest video. It looks like licensed content will have a one-time download charge, and don't forget the fact that anything like this potentially will incur charges from carriers' data plans as well.
It's not perfect. I think that some Vringo users are going to wish they could quickly share video without actually making a call--it just seems a little bit constrictive. But hey, mobile video sharing is still pretty new. This could really be where things are going.