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Social Media for the Military

YouTube and MySpace might not make the cut, but that doesn't mean that U.S. soldiers can't take part in the social-media frenzy.

At least not anymore, thanks to a new Defense Department initiative called TroopTube, a video-sharing site to help the 4 million active U.S. military personnel keep in touch with their friends and family.

The launch of TroopTube comes nearly a year and a half after the Defense Department blocked access to YouTube and other popular social-media sites, citing bandwidth limitations.

People can register to TroopTube as a member of one of the branches of the military, or as a family member, a supporter or a civilian employee of the Department of Defense.

TroopTube's home page features the most-watched video, currently a message of support to the troops from newly minted Central Commander Gen. David Petraeus.

The featured videos page shares the YouTube aesthetic of an array of thumbnail images paired with a brief description and the length of the video. An index pane on the right side organizes the videos by tabs for each of the four branches, as well as by categories like DoD/Civilian, Guard/Reserve and troop supporters. Under each of those tabs are thematic subcategories like families, buddies, events, holidays, news, pets and sports.

TroopTube is an initiative of Military OneSource, the Defense Department's information portal for military personnel.

The technical backbone comes courtesy of Delve Networks, a Seattle video-publishing startup launched five months ago to compete with companies like Brightcove.

Part of Delve's technology resizes video files on the fly to best match a viewer's Internet connection. Delve also offers an intelligent search feature that gleans the meaning of language spoken in video files, while pruning out generic words like "the" or "than." the company employs a pattern-matching technology to infer the meaning of a word based on its proximity to other related words found on millions of sites across the Web, a method of semantic information-retrieval that many see as the next evolution of search.

Delve developed TroopTube in partnership with the Houston-based digital agency Marion Montgomery.

Defense Department personnel will not edit videos for content, but will screen postings for security issues and obscenity. Videos are capped at five minutes or 20 MB.