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There are just some things in life that are better with a visual accompaniment, like business presentations, cooking classes and a film theory seminar.
Robo.to screen shot.
According to Rey Flemings, chief executive of Particle, status updates posted to Twitter and Facebook should be included on that list. His San Francisco company created a service called Robo.to that allows users to publish 4-second videos that act as visual status updates.
“We already know what I’m doing, but what does that look like?” he said.
The idea behind the platform is simple: In addition to the microvideos, which can be uploaded from a webcam or a mobile phone camera and pushed out via Facebook and Twitter with a few short lines of text, Robo.to is meant to be a digital calling card online or a hub that houses information about an individual’s identity on the Web. That’s what helps separate the service from other microvideo services like 12seconds.
Though the idea is more likely to resonate with Web-savvy users who broadcast every detail of their lives online than say, your mom, the service has won a modest following since it came out of private beta in August, attracting more than 100,000 new members. It doesn’t hurt that pop singer Justin Timberlake, one of the lead investors in the company, is also active on the site, posting multiple video updates daily.
But as Mr. Flemings puts it, “We aren’t trying to create the next big destination on the Web.”
Rather, the idea is to supplement the deluge of messages flowing through social networks, adding context and additional information which can occasionally get lost in the flood, he said.
For example, after the Kanye West outburst at the MTV Video Music Awards, responses flooded both Twitter and Facebook. But what did those responses look like?
To answer that type of question, the company is unveiling a new feature Monday called “TV Mode” that will allow users to watch all the videos associated with a particular keyword or hashtag. Mr. Flemings described it as a Twitter search, or Twitter’s trending topics, but with microvideos. He hopes that it will help users “watch the conversation unfold in a new way.”
Previously, users could only tune into the short video updates posted by a single user or by the entire community, dubbed the Statusphere, and not hone in on one particular topic.
Although currently the service is available for free, eventually, Mr. Flemings says, the company will consider rolling out paid premium accounts or partnering with companies and marketers who want to host branded contests.
“It’s still very early for us as a service,” he said. “But we’re hoping to introduce a whole new method of short-form video communication.”