RealTime IT News

Twitterers Get a New Video Channel

A new site offers Twitter users a chance to go beyond the short message feeds the service is famous for and tap a real-time feed of videos being shared on the popular micro-blogging site.

A beta of Twitmatic went live earlier this week. The site is based on technology from ffwd (pronounced Fast Forward). The company's "MyTV" infrastructure is designed to let blog and Web site owners add embeddable channels, similar to the idea of TV stations, to their sites.

Patrick Koppula, CEO of ffwd, compares this early beta release of Twitmatic to flipping through TV channels with a remote control. Other navigation and search features will eventually be added, but the current release is better suited to discovering videos being shared by Twitter user than searching for specific ones.

"It stems from the core technology of ffwd, which is to make it as simple as possible; a one button, surfing experience like Pandora or the iPod Shuffle," Koppula told InternetNews.com.

A recent trial of the site reveals, not surprisingly, a wide range of videos coming from Twitter, ranging from a humorous guitarist to an instructional video on Lotus Notes. Another shows a Ninentendo 64 emulator for the Macintosh and a mock therapy session with someone pretending to be addicted to the Internet. Many of the videos are from YouTube.

While the order and choice seems pretty random for now, Koppula said the system actually learns from how users interact with it. For example, you can hit a skip button at any time to move to the next video. When a user skips a video without watching it for more than a few seconds, that essentially is a vote to the system that its appeal is limited.

Some time in the next few months, Twitmatic will offer community segments so, for example, there might be a channel devoted to sports videos. "It will get more personalized as the Twitterstream gets more personal," said Koppula.

Analyst Tim Bajarin says the idea of channels is a natural progression from the Twitterstream.

"Twitter has become a phenomenon in its own right and it's only a matter of time before video was part of the mix," Bajarin, president of Creative Strategies, told InternetNews.com. "This sounds like something that's going to feed our channel-surfing nature."

Other planned enhancements include support for Twitter trending terms; support for filtering by usernames or people you follow; search by keyword; a comments stream and permalinks to revisit previously viewed videos.

Show me the money?

One thing Twitmatic (ffwd) has in common with Twitter is neither company has established a business or revenue model.

But Koppula says the company has a long-term plan that starts with establishing Twitmatic as a destination site. He said his study of early users of the service show some are spending as long as five hours at a time watching videos.

"I spoke at the TV Tomorrow conference and asked a simple question, 'If you had a service with people watching five hours of video, would you be able to monetize it?'"

He said nods of agreement came in response to his rhetorical question. Rather than traditional product ads, Koppula believes he'll be able to sell some form of "infotainment" in the videos that are either relevant to the content or perhaps to the profile of the person watching.

As for competition from Twitter itself, Koppula thinks he has enough of a head start and focus to stay ahead.

"It's one thing to say Twitter could do this; it's another to say they could be successful," he said. "This is a very hard problem we've solved."