Video Part of Social Networking?
I've been thinking about this for a couple of days when I first saw Peter Csathy's post on whether video interactions will be the next big thing. And, of course a few well respected bloggers added their two cents in and Peter summarized. I suppose it's my turn now.
When I think about video being "the next big thing," I can't help but think back to my first experience with recycling when I was about eight years old. I saved what seemed like a mountain of cans and took them to the recycling center. I got maybe a buck fifty for all those cans, which was kind of a bummer. On the other hand, I felt good because "I was recycling." The other, and more relevant thought I had was that "this is too much work. People aren't going to do this unless it's easier." And, of course, over time it did, and just about every community in the civilized world has at least some recycling program going on that is easy for people to take advantage of.
In order to do video, you have to have three basic things: a camera connected to the computer, broadband, and some software to make it happen. Unless you're smart and buy a Mac, which comes with a good quality web-cam built-in, you're going to have to buy an external web cam. Now I'm told some newer PCs also come with web cams built-in–I know Andy's little Sony hand-held PC does, but I haven't personally seen them yet. And I'm sure they aren't included in the low-end PCs.
Once you get the web cam, the next step is getting software. Okay, the webcam comes with some software that may or may not be standards compliant. It might be SightSpeed, or something entirely different. On the Mac, you have iChat, iMovie, and probably a few others applications included.
And finally, there's the whole broadband debate. Not everyone's got it yet, and even where it's available, there are some holdouts. One of my good friends who lives in Hawaii is able to get broadband from the local cable company, but he claims it would cost him $80 a month, which is more than he is willing to pay.
I'm going to ignore the whole "Social Networking" aspect of this. I'm with Ken Camp, I think social networks are dumb. The Internet is my "social network." Live it, or live with it. So let's assume that we are talking about "video interactions on the Internet."
I can tell you from my personal experience that once I got my MacBook, I was more open to doing things like video chat or making video blogs. Why? Because the camera is always there and the available software is really easy to use. What we have today for most people is the perfect storm for video interactions to not occur in large numbers. Will it happen? Probably, but it's going to take three things: the increased availability of cheap broadband, cameras being included with the majority of computers (and mobile phones), and standards for interaction, whether they be some kind of "open" standard anyone can write an application to, or a specific application like SightSpeed.
It's kind of a catch-22. The only way video can be the next big thing is if there is a critical mass of people using it, but the only way that will be reached is if the ability to do video is as ubiquitous as a mobile phone.
In short, I think it will be big. However, the road to get there will be challenging on many levels.