RealTime IT News

Video Search Gains Momentum

To help users find media files of all kinds, Yahoo and Blinkx this week went live with video search tools, adding to a cluster of services that includes the SingingFish streaming media offering.

To get some of the gazillion bytes of media data being generated by home and prosumer video tools into its index, Yahoo's video search beta lets anyone point their Web crawlers to their content by sending an RSS feed with an enclosure.

RSS enclosures work like attachments to e-mails, allowing audio files to be included in RSS feeds. Yahoo plans to enable its crawler to index video enclosures soon.

The service filters through a set of metadata extensions the company created called Media RSS, which enables publishers to provide search engine-friendly descriptions for their media content, according to Jeremy Zawodny, a member of the Yahoo search team. The metadata could include the names of the cast and crew, length of the program, licensing terms or available formats. Eventually, Zawodny writes in Yahoo's Searchblog, the idea is to enable other kinds of media to be found by the crawler.

Mountain View, Calif.-based Yahoo has also been making deals with big media partners, such as Blockbuster, to index available streaming and downloadable entertainment, according to Bradley Horowitz, director of media search.

"Part of our strategy for video is to leverage the momentum of RSS and the community," Horowitz said. "We created a mechanism by which individuals or organizations can submit RSS feeds and help us discover media content."

Horowitz said Media RSS is "designed and intended for grassroots democratization of media, to allow individuals to participate." Video creators won't need to deal with complicated coding, he said.

Stressing that the video search is still in beta, Horowitz said Yahoo will listen to, and act on, user feedback, as it quickly builds out the product. "You'll in very short order see a lot of innovation and change," he said.

San Francisco-based Blinkx, which released a desktop search tool earlier this year, has taken a different approach. Blinkx TV lets users search television programming across 22 cable channels, including Fox News, ESPN and Biography. Blinkx executives weren't available at press time.

The new service indexes content on the fly using automatic transcription technology, which transcribes content straight from the cable box or from video already stored on the Web. It then brings phonetic matching speech recognition technology to bear on it.

The search service uses Blinkx's patented Context Clustering Technology to identify the main ideas contained in any segment, so that searches aren't limited to key words.

Blinkx can act as a sort of TiVo for streaming media. Its Video Smart Folders, introduced along with Blinkx TV, lets users create "intelligent folders" that continuously populate themselves with multimedia content, based on parameters set by the user.

Although their strategies are very different, these two video search services have something in common: Bradley Horowitz. Horowitz founded Virage, a video search provider that focused on helping large media companies like CNN find internal video files. Horowitz sold Virage to Autonomy, an enterprise search provider, which combined Autonomy and Virage search technology, then spun it off into Blinkx.