Tapping the Treasure Trove of Web Videos with Veveo’s vTap

4/1/08Follow @wroush

When I last wrote about Andover, MA-based Veveo, the company was promoting its vTap “incremental search” software as a faster way to search for Web video clips from a mobile device. As you enter the letters of a search query on your phone keypad, the software shows a list of available videos with matching topics or titles, narrowing down the list in real time as you type. Veveo’s business model, at the time, was to license the technology to phone manufacturers and cellular carriers, who would in turn provide it to consumers. But lately the company has taken a turn directly toward end users, and yesterday it inaugurated the Windows Mobile and iPhone versions of a broader personalized search service that promises to make the burgeoning sea of mobile-accessible Web videos much more navigable.

More and more people carry around wireless devices that can access video on the Web; the problem is that there’s so much video content to choose from and, until recently, no good way to sort through it all. The new vTap search service helps with that problem by creating a central location where users can track video clips from thousands of websites such as YouTube, DailyMotion, MySpace, and the Internet Movie Database. It assembles videos matching a user’s interests into a personalized “feed” that’s continuously refreshed as the service locates new clips. Items are added to this feed automatically based on a number of factors, including the general topics a user selects, the detailed search terms they enter, the content of their social-networking profiles on MySpace or Facebook, their feedback about previously viewed clips, and the content being consumed by favorite friends who also use vTap.

“We developed the feed to deliver personalized video from any source on any topic to any device you want,” Darren Gill, Veveo’s vice president and general manager for the vTap product, told me during a visit to Xconomy’s offices last week. “We think there’s a real opportunity to help consumers create a mobile video habit.”

Veveo LogoTrue to Gill’s cross-platform guarantee, vTap feeds can be created and accessed in three ways: through the general vTap website, through a downloadable client program that runs on Windows Mobile devices, or through a special iPhone-optimized version of the website written for Apple’s mobile Safari browser. Yet another downloadable client version is under development for phones that support the Java runtime environment; meanwhile, non-Windows, non-iPhone mobile users can access the service through any phone with a Web browser at m.vtap.com.

It may be easiest to think of the vTap search service as the Web video equivalent of Google Alerts, the free Google service that allows you to sign up for e-mails with the latest search results related to your favorite queries or topics. The twist is that you can add “topics” to your vTap feed—the equivalent of a search term for a Google Alert—in several different ways. You can pick a topic from a general list of categories, or from the incrementally searchable list of some 3 million general concepts Veveo has identified by studying millions of Web videos and their associated metadata. You can tell vTap to send you videos that your friends are watching. You can add a vTap widget to your Facebook or MySpace account, where it will build a feed automatically from the information in your profile and/or your friends’ profiles. Finally, if you’re interested in a specific topic but it doesn’t appear on vTap’s lists of general categories or concepts, you can add it to your feed manually.

Not to toot my own horn, but this last feature is available largely because I asked Gill for it when he visited Friday. Gill told me that he and his programming team had debated whether or not to … Next Page »

Wade Roush is a contributing editor at Xconomy. Follow @wroush

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