Creating personalized recommendations based on a user’s social graph could be the holy grail for online video discovery. One startup looking to tackle that issue is Shelby.tv. One of the participants at TechStars’ most recent Demo Day, Shelby.tv recently launched an alpha version of its site.
In its current incarnation, Shelby.tv is about as simple as it gets. The site has a one-click sign-in process through Facebook or Twitter. Through that login, the site is able to check out your interests and take advantage of your social graph. It then surfaces videos that are shared by your Facebook friends or Twitter contacts.
According to founder Reece Pacheco, leveraging the social element of Twitter and Facebook was important to improve video discovery. That’s because most videos he found himself watching were discovered through word of mouth or because his friends were sharing them on social networks.
“It’s the social driver that sends me to video sites,” Pacheco told us in a phone interview. There’s a certain social capital of knowing which videos your friends are watching and keeping up with your friends.”
The concept is pretty simple, and one that is not entirely unique to Shelby.tv. Vodpod founder Remixation released an iPad and iPhone app called Showyou recently that also taps into users’ social graphs to provide video recommendations. The main difference is that while Showyou surfaces videos and displays them as a wall of unrelated content to browse through, Shelby.tv’s plan is to create a non-stop, full-screen stream of videos.
By doing so, Pacheco hopes to create an “instant-on playback experience.” For online video — and by extension Shelby.tv — to be successful, he believes that the experience has to be more like actual TV. That means no searching or browsing through videos to find something to watch, but having videos shown to you.
There’s still work to be done to improve the experience. For instance, the current iteration of Shelby.tv will play the same video multiple times if it’s tweeted or shared on Facebook by different people. But de-duplicating is one of the things the Shelby.tv team is currently working on. The startup also wants to learn which videos users prefer and create recommendations based on those preferences.
Perhaps most importantly, Shelby.tv is looking to build for new connected video platforms. While creating a lean-back experience on the web is one thing, it’s clear that the future of online video will be on new screens. As a result, you can probably expect Shelby.tv to build an iPad app or apps for connected devices like the Boxee Box or Google TV.