“Watch Later”: A Hypothetical DVR for Web Video


Venture capitalist Fred Wilson recently proposed the idea of a “Watch Later” queue for the web that connects up to the TV in your living room and to other devices. That web-to-TV linkup is high on his mind given that he’s in investor in Boxee, but is it something that people want?

What I want is a video plugin, where I have a little thing on my browser, anytime you e-mail me a link and I see it in Gmail or you pass a link to me in Friend Feed or Twitter, or I see a link in Facebook, or I come across a video, I just want to bookmark it. But what…I really want [is] to…queue it. And then, after I get home at night, after…dinner with the kids and homework, that hour-long time that I have where I sort of lean back, linear video, I just want to go to my queue which I’ve built up over the past day or two and just boom, sit back and watch linear video, watch this video, and then the next thing is some funny clip somebody sent me and then go watch Charlie Rose …

I can definitely see the behavior Wilson is talking about here, given I actively use an app called Instapaper on my iPhone, where I queue up articles to read offline on the train rather than leaving them open in endless browser tabs.

Multiple companies and individual developers are working on such projects for video, and replied to Wilson, a widely read blogger, in the comments of his posts. They include:

  • Boxqueue, a tool developed as part of the Boxee dev challenge (Boxee blog)
  • L8R, a Delicious tagging scheme
  • PopScreen, a yet-to-launch startup which says it enables users to “Bookmark and share your favorite tv shows, movies, webcasts, news clips, music and viral videos from hundreds of online sources in one place.” (We’ll have to follow up on this one.)

We also spoke to a few startups in the space that have similar tools to ask about their plans to extend them to TVs.

FFWD CEO Patrick Koppula told us his company launched a “Share With FFWD” bookmarklet last year, where users can save videos they see around the web into a playlist, and also built integration with Wii, the PS3 and Boxee that includes specialized filtering for only videos that will play on the platform being used. However, the company has since focused honing features for Twitter video sharing through its Twitmatic service, and few people are using “Share With FFWD.”

Indeed, Vodpod CEO Mark Hall said he didn’t feel there was demand for such a feature — and in a previous life, he even worked on a “personal video queue” for RealNetworks (s RNWK) way back in the day. But an even bigger problem, Hall said, is that many devices don’t support Flash, so bringing Flash web videos to them requires stripping out Flash and/or transcoding, which violates the terms of service of many video hosts. And Vodpod — though its widely compatible bookmarklet tool seems like a perfect fit for a “Watch Later” product — is not interested in crossing that line.

What do you think? Is a DVR for the web something you’d use, and something worth developing workarounds for? Do you have a better solution?

Vodpod is backed by True Ventures, a venture capital firm that is an investor in the parent company of this blog, Giga Omni Media. Om Malik, founder of Giga Omni Media, is also a venture partner at True.


Frank Sinton

Hi Liz – in some ways, it already is (Quicklist on YT, many different services’ activity feeds, which is more than video of course). There are many ways to look at it, but certainly the way we “program” our entertainment is changing dramatically.

Frank Sinton

Hi Liz – Thanks for posting this on NTV. I have already posted a comment on AVC, but thought it may be useful to post here as well for your readers:

This particular subject has gone back and forth over the past few years. We’ve had a “user queue” for a long time, which has elements of what you and Fred are talking about (http://blog.mefeedia.com/index.php?s=queue). We recently renamed this to just “watch”, which will become apparent why in a few moments… I think the “user queue” is what you are alluding to, rather than search or tag feeds.

User queues are useful, depending on the type of video. Three good examples would be:

  1. Serial video – i.e. users want to know when the latest episode of Lost is available and “queue” it to watch later. This is where the Subscribe/Queue mechanism works best.

  2. Rapid playlisting, such as one might do in a video search for a topic of high interest to you.

  3. Friends’ recommendations where you can queue up everything that is recommended by friends (i.e. from Twitter, FF, YouTube, FB, etc…)

However, for a lot of user videos or viral videos (which, i would argue, is still the majority of mainstream video consumption right now), this isn’t as useful as that is typically more of a “watch now” experience rather than a “watch later” (i.e. why we now call it “watch”, since a queue implies having to wait and we wanted it to encompass both the watch now and watch later experiences).

Based on what we have seen, search feeds (and to some extent, tag feeds) work great for queuing. Recent news and events are great applications of this. For example, having a constant, auto-updating search stream of new videos on the Iran Elections is very conducive to a lean-back experience where you can flip from video to video.

There are a lot of variations on this, of course… i am looking forward to the continued discussion.


I am using on my apple tv running XBMC, my wii and my Iphone http://reeplay.it which does just that.

It allows me to bookmark videos to watch later, and it transcodes them to make them available to most popular platforms either streamed or downloaded as a podcast


I definitely want this! I’ve been wanting this for years already

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