Seesmic Starts Adding Features

Seesmic is a company built specifically to encourage asynchronous video conversations. seesmic.jpgWe spent a few hours recently with Seesmic founder and CEO Loic Le Meur, who kindly gave us an update on the company. Four weeks after opening its service to the public, Seesmic recently announced a product roadmap heavily influenced by users.

After focusing on making sure the service scales, the company is now ready to add features including private groups, the option to block individual users from your Seesmic player, and letting users flag offensive content (e.g. porn). Search is a currently a big problem for them, and according to Loic they plan to address search in several ways: (1) give users the option of adding meta-data to their videos (description, tags, etc.), (2) employ automated audio-to-text software to create transcripts, and (3) since Seesmic videos are already on Google, use Google Video search. With apps for both Facebook and OpenSocial slated to be released in August, Seesmic hopes to draw more teen and college-age users.

One of the problems with following conversations on Seesmic is that unlike text, there isn’t a way to skim through video. Some people just take longer to get their point across. Assuming a 2-minute per video average, a conversation involving 60 posts/replies would take two hours to view from start to finish. Board member Pierre Omidyar started a Seesmic thread on the possibility of limiting videos to 30 seconds (a la twitter), but for the moment, there are no plans to limit the length of videos. However, the company plans to provide tools to filter out long videos and to display limited portions for faster viewing.

One month after their public launch, here are some key metrics

  • 23,000 unique users from 25 countries (about 50% are from the U.S.)
  • 3,000 videos are uploaded each day (total of slightly more than 300K videos)
  • average length of a video is 2 minutes
  • 30 million page views (doesn’t include videos viewed through their API)

The Seesmic community not only provides valuable input for their product team, some users have put together impressive mashups and visualizations. My favorites so far are a Youtube and Seesmic mashup for people conversing in sign language, and a visual of conversations related to the recently released French hostage, Ingrid Betancourt. If you download the PicLens Firefox plugin, a Seesmic user created a fun tool to help you quickly navigate all the videos posted by a particular user: try this sample search (“deepakchopra”) and set options to 3D Wall.

As to the inevitable question of business models, Loic is mulling a few possibilities: text ads similar to Google AdSense, premium membership, white labels, and customized players for companies, just to name a few. For now, their recent round of funding gives them the luxury of focusing on growing their user base and improving their service. It remains to be seen whether or not asynchronous video conversations catch on in a massive way. Video may never appeal to the many netizens adept at communicating through text. However, the more time you spend on Seesmic, you start seeing why Loic believes that there will be a market for video conversations. By default, the Seesmic community is defining how that market evolves, and four weeks after launching, they seem to be doing just fine.

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