The Web Gets Stickier: Seesmic, Virtual Worlds and Video

It Makes Me Wonder if Virtual Worlds Will Be More Reflective of Real Ones

By Published on .

Four weeks ago my wife and kids were out of town, starting their summer vacation in Cape Cod. This left me with more time on my hands than I'm used to and, in typical fashion, I stumbled into something that has now captured my imagination.

It's called Seesmic. I found it while looking at the investment portfolio of Y-Combinator, the venture capital fund run by the guys who started Kazaa, Skype and Joost. Founded by French super-entrepreneur and social-media maven Loic Le Meur, Seesmic is essentially a public bulletin board with one major difference -- instead of text it has live video.

The first-time user experience is really quite elegant and well-done. You see a central screen, always another person, somewhere in the real world, talking to their webcam, talking to the world, talking to someone in particular, talking to you. Surrounding the central video is a complex yet elegant piece of user interface work. The page displays a "Public" thread (all videos), a "Following" page of people you find interesting enough to track, and your "Inbox," containing private video messages.

But the Eureka moment for me came when I decided to stop lurking and watching and to record a video. I have low patience for all things technical, but the Flash application simply asked me a quick question: "Can I take over your camera?" I answered yes, and the rest was smooth as butter.

Already I've met cool people and formed friendships. It's weird, compelling and addictive. It reminds me in many ways of a virtual world, with several key differences: There is no simulated environment -- just the people and their real-world backgrounds; there is almost perfect fidelity of appearance; it is slightly asynchronous (virtual worlds are synchronous real time and simultaneous, like the phone); and there is no currency, other than the ephemeral "social currency" of all human social groups.

Well, over this weekend I finally succumbed and bought the new iPhone 3G, and I did so because I heard of an application that can send video live to the web. It's called Qik (www.qik.com).

And then it struck me -- the meaning of "sticky" has changed. It used to refer to a site's ability to keep viewers "stuck" interacting with content. But now the trend that began with Flickr for photos and YouTube for video is accelerating as software and systems evolve to make it easier for us to leave behind digital breadcrumbs of our real lives on the internet.

Perhaps the virtual world will simply be a somewhat altered reflection of our existing one. What do you think?
In this article:
Most Popular