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Social video service Tout is taking a big step to broadening usage, with new capabilities that will allow users to share moments with friends even if they don’t have its iPhone app. (s AAPL) It has also improved communications between users, with the ability to “re-tout” and reply to videos others have uploaded.
Tout is a service that lets users record short 15-second moments and share them with friends. Originally, the service launched with an iPhone app, as well as the ability to share short video clips from YouTube (s GOOG). The latest update, which just launched in the last few days, enables Tout users to record or upload videos straight from the web browser.
That will broaden potential usage of Tout, which so far has been tied to its iOS app. While an Android app is in the works, it will be a few more weeks before it becomes available to users. And, of course, offering a webcam or video upload capability also taps into the vast population of users who *gasp* don’t have a smartphone with a camera at all. It will also potentially put Tout up against browser-based sharing services like Vyou.
In addition to new ways to share moments with followers on the service, it also now allows users to “re-tout” and reply to one another’s videos. Users whose videos are replied to will then get mobile and email notifications telling them someone has posted a response.
According to CEO Michael Downing, the reply function came out of user behavior that was already happening on the service, as users attempted to engage with each other, even if the tools weren’t quite there yet to support it. Just as Twitter didn’t have retweet (RT) or @ replies built into its original code base, but added them to its products later, Tout is drawing on suggestions from the community to help drive its product road map.
Continuously adding features is one way that Tout hopes to compete in an increasingly crowded market for sharing short video messages with friends. In the past year, we’ve seen new entrants like Justin.tv’s Socialcam, Spotmixer’s Vlix, Vloggo and Viddy all launch, each seeking to become the “Instagram of video.”
Tout is also trying to drive interest by signing up celebrities to the service. The biggest celeb to sign up so far is probably Shaquille O’Neal (no pun intended), who not only announced his retirement from basketball using Tout, but also joined the startup’s board. Shaq’s presence has been huge, as the former NBA star drove more than a million views in just 24 hours after his retirement announcement.