September 17, 2008

Seesmic to Release New Nokia Client, Sees New Video Every Minute

Yesterday evening, at a panel on lifestreaming put on by the MIT/Stanford Venture Lab, Seesmic founder Loic Le Meur introduced the video conversation site as seeing significant growth and part of the real-time Web, utilizing video, for the first time, in an active way, rather than a passive way, as YouTube does. The result is a site that he says is used in more than 40 countries and sees a new video posted every minute, a number which has now reached more than half a million since May, from 30,000 different users. Also, he dropped hints to a new Seesmic client built for Nokia handsets that would enable full video conversations, including replies, to debut today.

I attended the session and took notes via laptop, so all quotes are "best effort."

Le Meur said Seesmic came to life due to a gap between today's text-based social software, including blogs and Facebook, and the more active nature of video. He said that while YouTube offers the ability to post comments and replies to videos, they don't happen all that often, and that through integration with tools like Disqus, Twitter and FriendFeed, Seesmic can power the video conversation.

As he told attendees, half of the service's traffic happens on the Seesmic Web site, and another half occurs through desktop clients, like Thwirl, which he acquired earlier this year. Seesmic is now also installed on 7,000 blogs, including this one, and TechCrunch, enabling visitors to leave video comments on stories, and embed the entire video thread.

Le Meur, who raised $12 million for Seesmic, said the actual costs of the site are relatively small, in the tens of thousands per month. Costs are largely kept low due to users' videos, on average being less than a minute, he said. But plans for revenue include a mix of advertising and pro accounts, which would have greater capability and customization. He also spoke highly of co-branded operations, citing a 20th Century Fox promotion that received 1,600 view replies, and said a new feature, called groups, would debut in coming weeks.

"We were very lucky that we raised $12 million, and we are very cautious," Le Meur said. "We can hold for years."

The goal of growing Seesmic isn't to flip the company and make a quick buck, Le Meur said yesterday, joking about his record of selling four different companies after saying that was a "bad goal to have". Instead, he wants to help power anytime communication by video from anywhere, getting as close to real life as possible, while continuing to learn from the user community as to what features should come next.

"I would like to pursue my vision of a worldwide talk show, where people talk together, no matter where they are, all on video," Le Meur said. "We are building something real different. We wouldn't have done video comments at the beginning, and now we are learning by the community. We have a very active community and get thousands of feature requests."

Le Meur, who has one of the most active, most-followed Twitter accounts in the world, said he saw the real-time nature of the service as incredibly compelling, and that the "instant Web" was changing everything. His goal would be to leverage the power of sites like Twitter and FriendFeed to reach more users and groups of users who find communities online, even if the video quality, so far, isn't the best ever - something that has surprisingly been a boom for online dating sites.

"The good news is that you actually look worse (on Seesmic) than you really are," he said, adding that Seesmic would be branching out to make even more people look worse than they really are, through the release of an updated Nokia client today, which will let Nokia users have a full conversation, including video replies, using only their handsets.