Bangalore based technology start-up Althea Systems has launched Shufflr.tv, a set of web and native apps that facilitate discovery of videos on the internet and lend a social element to them by enabling discussions through social networks like Twitter. So, users can discover videos shared by celebrities and friends, and talk about it online on the same page via Twitter. Last year, Althea had raised $3 million from Intel Capital, and had inked content deals with NDTV, Reuters, CNBC-TV18, BigFlix in India, the BBC and MSNBC in the UK, and also with Brightcove which aggregates a large number of content providers. It had initially launched the service as a desktop video browser on Adobe Air platform.
To aid discovery, the site divides videos in Categories like Music, Shortfilms, Howto, Tech, Auto, Sports among others, and into social channels such as blogs, movies, fashion, authors, politics and others. Users can choose to get video feeds from any of these channels once they log-in to the website, in addition to video feeds from their twitter friends(users they follow), recommended videos, videos creating buzz and videos with discussions.
The web app can be accessed by going to the Shufflr.tv URL on any connected device, while the Android app can be downloaded through the Android Market. Shufflr also offers a desktop app based on the Adobe Air platform. Its iOS apps are awaiting Apple’s approval.
In addition to these, the service also allows viewers to queue videos for later viewing. It also features a bookmarklet a.k.a Instapaper, that lets users queue videos to their Shufflr.tv account from their browser, when they come across a video that they wish to watch later.
Although video discovery is a challenge these days, with the multitude of content being uploaded by individuals and publishers, making it simple is a bigger challenge. The site intends to not only organize videos posted by Twitter users at one place but also create a social video sharing network within.
– Tell users how it works: Shufflr.tv needs to do more when it comes to explaining the features and functionality of the service. When the user logs in for the first time, the site asks him to select user channels and categories, without completely explaining the purpose. Frankly, it took us some time to understand its interface and, how the service actually works. A tour video or a set of tip handles would help.
– Content: We found that even after selecting interests, many of the videos that the site offers were not relevant. Videos with conversations were too few and the only line of conversation was their intros by users who tweeted them. This maybe because of the fact that the service was in private beta. However, it offers a lot of YouTube videos from various publisher channels.
– What’s with the ghost profile? : The site curates videos tweeted by celebrities or twitter users with a high number of followers, and creates their profiles marking them as Ghost users or users who have not claimed their profiles. Other users can tweet them asking them to claim it. So how does one make sure that these profiles are genuine? We feel that precedence should be given to relevant content than to content tweeted by celebrities. However, there would be a lot of users who would love to see videos that celebrities are watching.
Although, in principle the service’s intent is to aid video discovery, helping users find videos that they would want to watch, Shufflr needs to fine tune it to offer more relevant content. We love how the Zite app on iPad helps users discover content, and would love to see a similar approach in video.