Here at CNET, we believe in video (just check out CNET TV). So we're also fans of screencasting, where you record video directly from your computer's desktop (see, for example, the screen images in this video). There's no better way to show off software or an online service. We use TechSmith's Camtasia at CNET, and we've been mostly happy with it. Yesterday the company released version 4, which adds several useful features, including support for the iPod's M4V format and workgroup tools that ensure consistency among multiple Camtasia users in the same company. A review of the product is forthcoming.
But to me, the most interesting thing the company did this week was add an online service to Camtasia, Screencast.com. The site is one of literally hundreds of video sites, but since it's built to display screencasts, there are a few differences.
First of all, Camtasia 4 posts directly to Screencast.com. With previous versions of Camtasia, you could create great screencasts, but it was up to you to find a place to host them. That presented two problems: First, you lose control and ownership of your video when you post to a public site like YouTube; and second, most public sharing sites resize videos and can make full-screen captures unreadable.
Screencast is a video hosting service, not a community or sharing service, so you retain ownership of your content. TechSmith won't put ads on your video pages nor make your files available to the public at large. TechSmith CEO Bill Hamilton calls Screencast.com the "anti-YouTube." Another big difference: You have to pay for hosting. Fees start at $6.95 a month and go up as you consume bandwidth. Camtasia, though, will produce your screencasts in the best format for online streaming, so you don't waste bandwidth and money.
Screencast.com is a logical adjunct to Camtasia. It also showcases the benefit of hybrid software/online products: You do interface-intensive work on your local PC, and when it's time to share your work, you upload it to a site that's tightly linked to the application. I expect we'll be seeing more hybrid products, especially from Microsoft and other vendors who are trying to get on the Web 2.0 bandwagon while also making products that leverage local computing power, not to mention the business model of selling software. Plus, this way, vendors get to charge users twice.