Just days after being honored with the Nobel Peace Prize, Al Gore's Current TV has launched a new website that seems focus more on collaborative content and social networking than on video creation and television distribution.
Al Gore has proven that there can be life after politics. He's written several best-selling books, received an Oscar for An Inconvenient Truth, helped develop Current TV, a cable television station focused on getting young people interested in the world around them. and he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize last week. Seven years ago, he was running for president and since that time he's done all this.
Today Current launched a new website at Current.com that not only brings all the television content to the web, but also seeks to build a new social media platform. The site has a completely new look, a wealth of new features, and a few components seem to have been pushed out the door. When a visitor first stops by Current.com, they are greeted with a tutorial introducing the new site.
Gone is the ability to embed videos from Current on your own blog; it's unclear whether the videos that have already been cross-posted will still work. The forums have also been retired and replaced with a collective blogging platform.
At first glance, the most interesting part of the redesign is the fact that all television media is now available to stream online. The television schedule is presented in a wheel format that allows visitors to easily peruse the day's content and tune into interesting pods on their computer. It took over two years, but the site is finally fully-functional for those who can't get the station through their local cable provider.
The site also adds a viewpoints section which serves as a sort of video town hall on the most popular issues in our society. It did seem a bit buggy and crashed my Firefox a few times though. While I'm excited to see this feature evolve, I'm a bit bothered by the fact that most of the viewpoints are from Current employees who don't disclose this in any way.
Current still allows visitors to upload "pods" for the cable network, and the site has implemented a sort of assignment desk to help generate ideas for new content. When the network first launched, a payment scale was established that would pay creators on a graduated scale, but this scale was removed in the last revision and its no longer apparent whether media makers will be paid for their submissions at all. When new users sign up, they are asked to agree to a 22-page terms-of-service contract that runs nearly 8,000 words; despite reading the contract on multiple occasions I can only find the payment scale for Current's V-CAM or viewer created advertising project.
I've had an extended relationship with Current TV since long before they launched, and it has been interesting to see the network evolve. In many ways, this looks to be the most engaging iteration though I'm a bit concerned that any mention of compensation has been completely excised from the site. It also bothers me that the massive terms-of-service contract is completely obscured and continues to be presented in such a cavalier fashion. There's no telling where Current is headed, but at least they've demonstrated a willingness to change and try new things as they figure out their role in the media landscape.