VHX.tv is preparing to open up for public beta this Tuesday, offering a new crowd of users the opportunity to test out the video sharing and discovery site.
Co-founded by online video pros Casey Pugh (whose past work includes Boxee, Vimeo and an Emmy) and Jamie Wilkinson (the co-creator of Know Your Meme and Mag.ma), VHX serves a two-fold purpose, offering a social dashboard of videos being shared by other users, as well as the opportunity for users browsing elsewhere to queue up videos for later viewing. The idea, according to Wilkinson told us in a phone interview, is to solve the problem of how people watch and share videos with friends.
VHX addresses the same concept that other startups have approached — that is, the idea that the best way to discover new content is not through an algorithm, but through social interaction. But a number of factors help it stand apart. One is its dramatic design, in which the video takes over the entire browser window for distraction-free viewing, with the dashboard and other features (including the ability to like, queue up and share videos across multiple social platforms), given a low profile. While not all videos are high-res enough to make this rewarding, a short film available in 720p or higher pops nicely.
Another distinction is its current user base, which is largely made up of high-level “power consumers” of online video — which is to say, the hip cool kids who always see hot new virals first. According to Wilkinson, VHX now has 5,000 users in private beta, most of whom are pretty active users of the site and represent many of that elite. Just some of those actively participating include Laughing Squid’s Scott Beale, video remix artists Wreck and Salvage and College Humor co-founder Jakob Lodwick.
“I’ll see it on VHX 24 or 48 hours before anywhere else,” Wilkinson said, describing the typical VHX stream as “a blend of the Boing Boing front page and Failblog front page. Your standard internet fare, with an extra dose of Vimeo.”
But the exact balance of content at this stage depends on which VHX users you follow, though users coming through the public beta will have the ability to pull in videos from their social streams, including Twitter, Tumblr and Facebook. In addition, Wilkinson and Pugh are working on the ability to import big blogs — like, say, Laughing Squid or Boing Boing — as viewable streams. “We’re really excited about adding playlist features and more powerful curation stuff,” Wilkinson said. Currently, VHX only works with YouTube and Vimeo videos; support for other players including Blip.tv, Dailymotion and Livestream is in progress.
VHX at this stage is self-funded, with one major contribution, according to Wilkinson, being the recent seven-figure sale of Know Your Meme to the Cheezburger Network, from which he and the other creators of KYM benefited from financially. Early conversations about seeking out a round of funding are also happening.
Monetization, though, comes from what Wilkinson referred to as the “three As” — apps, ads and accounts (specifically, pro accounts), with an emphasis on offering premium features over advertising. The upcoming iOS app, he says, will likely be a paid offering — in addition, a Boxee app for leanback viewing is also in development.
But even stuck inside the browser, VHX does stand out as a solution to the “I want to see something new” problem, especially when either your personal dashboard or the curated Discover section are allowed to play as a continuous stream. Letting VHX play for twenty minutes on random, for example, exposed me to strange animation, a Sesame Street clip, an A-plus cat video and some dazzling time-lapse cinematography — none of which I’d ever seen before. Which is the very definition of discovery.