Remember 12seconds and its 15 minutes of fame? The product didn't make it. Maybe it was just short 3 seconds. Yesterday, a new video-sharing service launched: Tout. It's similar in concept to 12seconds in many ways: the service lets you record short videos--up to 15 seconds long in Tout's case--and then share them with your friends on its own network or on Twitter and Facebook.
Why will this work where 12seconds didn't? CEO Michael Downing thinks 12seconds was a bit early. The time has come for the idea of a video update service. Since 12seconds came and went, the "macro trend" of short social updates has accelerated, Downing says. Also, more people are accustomed to updating their social networks from mobile handsets. So far, so good.
But Downing also says that video updates are the natural next step after text (Twitter, Facebook) and photo (Instagram) status updates. And this is where he loses me.
Video is different. At least it is to me and to the several people I talked to about this idea. A video is both more intimate than a text or a snapshot update, and at the same time much harder to create. It's more work to take an acceptable video than it is to write a quick SMS-length update or take a snapshot.
And the whole artificial length limitation is tired. Downing says, though, that there are both social and technological reasons for the 15-second limit. You can't do a big production in 15 seconds, which makes videos more personal; you also won't overload data networks with 15-second videos; one is about the same size as a large photo.
I don't think Tout is completely dialed in, but Downing is smart about where he thinks it could take off: He believes it's a good solution to keep "big social brands," by which he means media personalities, connected to their users. I still don't see the real need for a 15-second limit, but I think he's right that public figures could do well to connect with their fans or supporters by doing more quick-and-dirty videos.
Beyond the sound bite
Perhaps a minute is the right time limit for a social video service. If that's what you believe, then SpotMixer's Vlix video-sharing app may be for you instead (it's an update of a previous version, named Vlip; it should be live in the Apple App Store today). Vlix's claim to fame is that it allows you to apply filters to your videos after they're shot, as Instagram does with photos. You can turn videos into black-and-whites, add sparkles, or reverse whole clips (but only one effect per video). It's kind of fun, even if video post-processing does take too long.
Unfortunately, the version of Vlip I was able to try won't send updates to your Twitter friends, just your Facebook network and selected e-mail contacts. If you're going to make a product with artificial length constraints, Twitter's where you want to be.
The best smartphone video-sharing app I've seen recently is Justin TV's SocialCam, which . In addition to allowing very easy sharing through Facebook and Twitter, it also has no silly length restriction. And it's got obvious-in-retrospect technical advantages, like actually uploading video while you're shooting, instead of waiting for you to finish. Of the video-sharing apps I've seen, SocialCam is the most polished, the least gimmicky, and the app to beat.