Sometimes, the best part of a video is a minute or two past the starting point, and a new service called uShow is making it easier for users to get there.
The service lets users tag online video with notes or names of people they follow on Twitter or Facebook. Once tagged, a link to the video can be shared with anyone, and it automatically jumps to the relevant playback point.
The idea is, if you saw yourself in a concert video, or felt that only the final minute of a particular Saturday Night Live skit was funny, you could share that part of the video without asking friends to fast forward. Aside from casual use among friends, uShow hopes bloggers will use the service in their posts and musicians will encourage tagging from their fans.
Using the service, which technically launches Thursday but has quietly allowed new participants for several months, is fairly simple. Videos can be pulled in from YouTube by copying and pasting the link, and uploads are also possible from the user’s computer, Webcam or mobile device. Clicking on the video adds a tag and creates a link that can be distributed freely, and comments on the video get pushed out to Twitter and YouTube. Anyone can watch the videos, but only registered users can add tags of their own.
uShow plans to monetize through standard overlay ads that appear in the bottom third of the video window, and by selling research on what people watch. The site’s founder and CEO, Joe Shapiro, and President Bill Eichen said that right now, they’re just focused on building an audience. They hope to have 100,000 registrants by the time they look for venture funding. They’ll be seeking $3 million to $5 million in the fourth quarter.
I think uShow will live or die based not on its current state, but on how well it plays with existing means of communication and networking. Right now, users can’t embed videos on other Web sites, as the company is still working on a way to incorporate display ads, but any blogger will tell you that they’d rather embed a video than link to it. I also wondered if uShow would try to forge partnerships with third-party Twitter clients, such as Tweetie and TweetDeck. Shapiro said an application programming interface is on the way but didn’t offer any concrete details.
Shapiro and Eichen also hinted at relationships with established video sites, which could be promising if they are indeed working with sites like Hulu or YouTube. Still, it’s not clear how a service like uShow would get involved with those larger sites without drastically changing the core video-watching experience.
uShow has offices in Palo Alto and Menlo Park, Calif., and employs five full-time people who are mostly working for equity. The site was initially funded on individual investments in the low six figures, Eichen said.