ooVoo Wants to be Your Video Social Network

ScreenshotIt’s not like there is any shortage of social networks these days. Still, that doesn’t keep new ones from popping up and hoping to attract a critical mass of users. One of the latest to cross our radar is ooVoo, which pitches itself as “Free Video Conferencing and Video Messaging.” As you can no doubt guess, their hook is easy video integration with their services.

After a simple installation (Windows only at the moment, though Mac is promised soon and they don’t rule out Linux in the future), you end up with what looks like another instant messenger window running in the corner of the screen, which minimizes as expected to the tray. It didn’t have any trouble detecting the random USB webcam and headset I had laying around, but they also have a store that will sell you ones that are known to work well with ooVoo.

So after you load it up, what can you do? ooVoo supports one-to-one video conversations, of course, with anyone on your contact list. You can even have contacts who don’t have webcams; they participate using audio only. But (assuming you’ve got a broadband connection) you can expand your video chats to include up to six participants at one time, making for instant ad-hoc videoconferencing.

You can also record and send video messages, even to recipients who are not ooVoo users. In a nice touch, they’ve leveraged their infrastructure for this to allow ooVoo to serve as a general file sending mechanism: up to 20 files at a time, each up to 25MB, which is nice if you’re stuck with email that throttles you down to unreasonably small attachment sizes. There are various other bells and whistles like click-to-call “ooVoo Me” links for your blog and importing contacts from your address book, but the video conferencing and video mail features are the clear core.

There are a batch of video services out there trying to get traction these days. What ooVoo has going for it is ease of installation and use, and mapping back on to the familiar IM metaphor. But with existing video IM clients (though without the group conferencing) on one side, and other video social networks like Utterz and Seesmic on the other, it may be tough to translate those advantages to leaping out of the pack.

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