Clipsync just launched a WebEx-like experience for watching online video. Many people are working on products to make web browsing more social; video is one place where it really makes sense. No virtual buttered popcorn odor, but that would be gross.
Clipsync comes from a team that has experimented with quite a few projects before settling on this one; you may remember them as Abazab — which is now being subsumed into Clipsync. The company has raised $5.5 million from Draper Fisher Jurvetson.
The service is a Flash dashboard for video, with the crux a “universal video player” where participants can together watch clips from YouTube, Google Video, and Metacafe. This is synchronized, unlike YouTube Streams, where users view a set of videos at their own pace. The rest of the Clipsync screen is filled out with chat, a playlist, recommendations, and search. Typically, one member “drives” the viewing experience and queues up video for other members. But control can also be graded, all the way to “free for all.”
Sessions are public by default, but can be made private. At this point, the main form of communication is text chat, with “audible” emoticons to play sounds for laughing, cheering, groaning, et cetera. Voice chat is a planned feature, according to Cohen.
Other stuff in the works includes tools for asynchronous watching, and an embeddable widget to display whatever you’re watching on your webpage or social network profile. The company is in talks with media companies to license their content and provide its tools for their communities — for example, a set of rooms devoted to HBO shows — but plans to keep Clipsync as a destination site.
We think better organization for static rooms and personal rooms is key — so users can easily find what rooms they want to join — but the current unstructured list of rooms won’t be a problem until a lot more people are on the site.
The comparison to WebEx isn’t just casual; Cohen formerly worked at that company. Clipsync would do well to tone down some of the business-y UI, which could be WebEx legacy — calling the chatrooms “sessions,” and over-complicating the directions for setting one up.
Like we said, the company has spun around a bit before choosing to go with Clipsync. Previously, Abazab had touted its tools for mobile video-sharing. Before that, Cohen and a couple other of Clipsync’s 11 employees worked at Santa Cruz Networks, makers of Vskype/Festoon, a tool for sharing video in Skype. That company, also funded by DFJ, was repurposed to form Abazab. You can get a snapshot of where Abazab was in May of this year from this VentureBeat post.
We think the idea of communal online video watching has a ton of potential, but the closer this gets to people’s regular IM experience, the better. Clipsync is currently integrated with Skype buddy lists, and promises additional networks are coming. Meebo-like login integration would be ideal.
To that end, companies with their own IM and video products have a leg up on setting up competitors to Clipsync. We wrote about Microsoft Soapbox’s efforts to include video in its IM clients last week.