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Now this seems like a pretty obvious evolution for Web video. HeyCosmo, a product from startup Arsenal Interactive launching today, is offering group environments for webcam chat, aiming to create live poker games, fantasy drafts, and cooking shows.
Up to 10 people can join a room and 50 more can watch, with websites, games, videos, and music played in sync for all the participants. The service is launching with a Texas Hold ‘Em setup, but anyone can create a room for their own purposes, for free and without ads. Eventually users will be able to charge others to participate in their rooms. (Arsenal CEO James Im says he’s encouraging users to report inappropriate use of the product.)
We weren’t able to demo HeyCosmo yesterday because it requires a Windows-only download and works only in Internet Explorer. Im says this is because the company has created its own video codec rather than using, say, Adobe Flash, which works everywhere but would cost more than he wants to pay.
That brings up a question: Why don’t existing video conference players, whose tools are already compatible with multiple platforms and browsers, have a better chance of doing this themselves? Im counters that argument with the contention that free consumer tools are beyond conception for companies used to providing enterprise tools and pocketing monthly fees. Sure, but you better get it together to make your product more accessible before someone else does!
Mountain View, California-based Arsenal Interactive is a year old, with $1 million in angel funding raised. The company has 13 employees and hopes to raise $3 million more in the next few months to expand. The name “HeyCosmo” is sort of a riff on “hello world.”