The future of online video is ‘Bright’

In January, I predicted video would be the #1 story of the web in 2006.

At his RTNDA keynote in Las Vegas today, Brightcove CEO Jeremy Allaire supported my thesis. Lost Remote has an excellent wrap-up of his speech, where he demonstrated the new and exciting Brightcove platform which is about to go live (give it about two weeks or so). It’s a huge story, as Brightcove appears to be the first truly usable, open platform for creating, distributing, and monetizing personally-created video.

A summary of Brightcove, from Lost Remote’s coverage:

Brightcove is behind some of the most innovative video projects on the web, and founder and president Jeremy Allaire’s keynote follows. He demonstrated Brightcove’s tool that allows just about anyone to build their own player experience from a variety of templates and settings. And he talked about upcoming plans to encourage anyone to upload, distribute and sell video through Brightcove’s tools and a new relationship with AOL. More…He begins by mapping out the promises of internet TV: open distribution, consumer choice, multi-screen delivery and content owner control. A broad overview for the broadcast folks in the crowd.

I’ve been testing out a form of the Brightcove player for a few months but what I’ve seen is nothing like what Allaire demonstrated today. This is exciting stuff.

Andy Baio sticks up for freedom of expression online

If you care about freedom of speech and the future of the Internet as a distribution platform for original content, you should care about Andy Baio’s willingness to stand up to the powers that be.

Baio, a popular blogger at waxy.org, has been hosting the files of a popular homegrown series, House of Cosbys, since November 2005. Last week, Baio received a threatening cease-and-desist letter from attorneys for Bill Cosby demanding he take down his copies of the series, which parodies Cosby’s voice, mannerisms, and some of his catchphrases (but not, in my view, in a mean way).

The series of short films originally appeared on Channel101.com, where it became extremely popular. After Cosby’s attorneys got Channel101.com to remove the videos, Baio began hosting them, he says, because they “deserve to be seen” – and he’s right.

In his announcement that he’ll fight the scare tactics of Cosby’s attorneys, Baio gets to the heart of the issue:

But I’m not removing House of Cosbys. House of Cosbys is parody, and clearly falls under fair use guidelines. I’m not taking it down, and their legal bullying isn’t going to work….Sorry, but the First Amendment protects satire and parody of a public figure as free speech. Also, the right of publicity only applies to unauthorized commercial use, and not a work of art or entertainment.

More than anything, this strikes me as a special kind of discrimination against amateur creators on the Internet. Mad Magazine, Saturday Night Live, South Park, The Simpsons, Family Guy, and countless other mainstream media sources have parodied Bill Cosby over the years (see growing list below).

I’m not saying Cosby has to love the fact that his likeness is out there being parodied for anybody with high-speed internet and a unique sense of humor to appreciate. But Baio shares some pretty damning evidence with a list of popular, mainstream avenues where Cosby has been parodied before without resorting to what amounts to legal scare tactics, and I’m betting that many of those shows in the list treated Cosby with much less admiration, no matter how off-kilter House of Cosbys is.

On this issue, Cosby should take a page from Chuck Norris’ book. The legendary actor recently became aware of the popular “Chuck Norris facts” meme travelling throughout the web, and rather than calling his lawyers, he instead reached out to his audience on the web with this message:

I’m aware of the made up declarations about me that have recently begun to appear on the Internet and in emails as “Chuck Norris facts.” I’ve seen some of them. Some are funny. Some are pretty far out. Being more a student of the Wild West than the wild world of the Internet, I’m not quite sure what to make of it. It’s quite surprising. I do know that boys will be boys, and I neither take offense nor take these things too seriously.

After that, Chuck proceeded to spin the message into a sales pitch for his latest book. He obviously realizes that you can’t spend your time trying to stifle the open distribution channel of the web- you can only hope to come off well, and maybe sell a few of your widgets in the process.

Unfortunately, Bill Cosby has done neither. Maybe he’ll reconsider if peole stand behind Andy Baio’s small act of courage and send a message that the web will not be sued into submission.

Woomu: Another video sharing site, with some twists

Woomu is a new video sharing site with a couple of interesting twists. The biggest difference between woomu and other video sharing sites such as YouTube is that woomu is simply an aggregator, rather than a video hosting service. While this approach provides relative freedom from pesky copyright troubles like the ones YouTube has faced recently, I’m inclined to think that it may stifle other advantages such as easy sharing.

Like Digg, Newsvine, and other community-driven content sites, woomu also allows users to vote on individual videos, determining which files appear on the homepage of the site. The woomu twist is that besides voting files up to the homepage, users can also vote an individual file down. This two-way-street approach is one that other community-driven sites have stayed away from for the most part, choosing instead to go with a weighted voting system that favors reporting bad links over straight down votes. woomu puts the yea vs. nay on an even keel- but will it work?

woomu logo
Dave McAdam, co-founder of woomu, took some time to answer some questions about the new service via email. In the interview, Dave talks about the difference between woomu and other video sites, how the service fits in with the emerging distributed content model, and what the name means. The entire interview appears after the break.

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edgeio: Classifieds, and a hope for distributed community

You may think the previous post on my blog, in which I listed a propane fireplace for sale, was a little bit strange. In fact, there’s another reason for it besides my desire to sell the fireplace (after all, I’ve already paid to post it for sale elsewhere). The ad was also my first test of the new distributed classifieds service edgeio.

Edgeio

Edgeio is still in beta, so you’ll need a password to check out the site. But without visiting it, you’ll have to trust me when I say that it’s not only a great new web-based classifieds service, it’s also a promosing hope for the future of distributed content and community on the web.

So that’s what makes edgeio so exciting, but what makes it tick? Simple. Instead of the ebay model, where you create a separate account, a separate identity, and sell your listings on their site, in their market, edgeio makes all of the web a market. Rather than posting an ad for sale on edgeio, you write a blog post listing your item, service, or job opening. Tag it with “listing” and other keywords, and edgeio reads your RSS feed and automatically lists your item. In my first test today, my listing- including the image I posted on it- appeared on edgeio within a few minutes.

After it appears, you can enhance your listing with graphics, keywords, by claiming it. The point is that while edgeio is a convenient place to search for and view items in context, the actual item itself is generated from within your own central place on the web.

Behind the simplicity of this difference lurks another tremendous benefit: identity.

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