bbc.co.uk Navigation

Darren Waters

Seesmic killed the YouTube star?

  • Darren Waters
  • 18 Jan 08, 11:01 GMT

It's not often you are presented with a vision of the future of online video in a pub in London.
Loic LeMeur

But that's exactly what I was shown last night by celebrated French blogger, well-connected entrepreneur and Seesmic founder Loic LeMeur.

He believes that the future of online video is not YouTube or even live video, he thinks it is video conversations among a community.

His Seesmic project is currently in Alpha - very early release - but already he has built up a strong, and loyal, community of so-called Seesmic-ers.

Here's an example of a video he made while we chatted.

Within minutes of posting the video to Seesmic, he had replies from the community all around the world, including from members sat around the corner in the same bar.

"YouTube is not a conversation," explained LeMeur. "As one Seesmic-er said to me, 'YouTube is about the videos, Seesmic is about the people in the videos'."

Users can record videos via webcams and upload directly to Seesmic, or record using YouTube and post from that site.

The company is also working on a mobile phone version of Seesmic.

He says Seesmic is more intimate because video allows users to see each other for who they are.

Users reply to each others' replies, creating an almost infinite threaded conversation around different topics.

Seesmic has an arrangement with micro-blogging site Twitter so that as soon as a new reply is posted, it is also posted on a user's Twitter page.

It's a great example of how two start-up companies are leveraging each others' success to strengthen their own platform's offering.

The death of Benazir Bhutto and the recent crash-landing of the British Airways plane at Heathrow had provoked much video chattering, says LeMeur.

"People are fed up of seeing the same footage on the mainstream networks. With Seesmic they can go in a different direction," he explains.

For LeMeur, Seesmic is not just a business and a social space, it's also where he has done business.

"Half of my development team I met on Seesmic," he explains.

He has $6m in funding and says he is in no hurry to start monetising the project. His backers include big names such as Skype founders Niklas Zennstrom and Janus Friis, LinkedIn founder Reid Hoffman, and people like Ron Conway, one of the original investors in Google.

LeMeur hopes that Seesmic will become THE platform for video conversations. There is an API that people can use to build on top of, in much the way Facebook is positioning itself as the lingua franca of social networking.

He admits that the thought of YouTube wading into the video conversation space is a risk.

"That's the challenge. That's the excitement of being small," he says.

LeMeur is due to meet YouTube co-founder Chad Hurley soon after he requested one of the sought-after invites to take part in the Seesmic trial.

But he says if YouTube came knocking, Seesmic would not be for sale.

LeMeur will be in Davos at the World Economic Forum next week. He is working with CNN who will use Seesmic-ers replies to questions posed by LeMeur on the channel as an experiment.

It will be a very high-profile public showing of Seesmic.

And something that is bound to keep investors happy.

Comments

Wow - I am just getting into twitter, and I have been using utterz for video/audio/picture blogging - could this embrace everything?

I was one of the Seesmic members sat around the corner in the same bar.

What's really interesting is the way that Loic and the Seesmic team conduct business. It takes transparency to a whole new level. On a regular basis the community not only watch the team work or conduct interviews with the press, but can also join in the conversation, help and offer constructive criticism.

Best of all the team listens and reacts almost in real time.

Add that to the fact that the community on Seesmic is filled with interesting people using the platform to strengthen friendships and develop new projects it's obvious that Seesmic is a lot more than simply a threat to YouTube. It really is a brand new animal.

Nice job Loic for all the positive PR !

  • 4.
  • At 03:35 PM on 18 Jan 2008,
  • Keith wrote:

I don't understand how this can replace YouTube... can I watch music videos or old TV clips on Seesmic?

This is just like a social videoconference, and I'm not sure I would like to show my face or see others' faces - especially first thing in the morning!!

Keith, I don't really see it as a YouTube killer. I was really trying to make the point that YouTube is not the start and end of user generated online video.

Seesmic is an interesting new dimension.

  • 6.
  • At 04:16 PM on 18 Jan 2008,
  • Dave Cumming wrote:

Correct me if I'm wrong but this is basically a forum set up with videos instead of just posts right?

Most forums work as people can talk without fear of reprisal as they are anonymous, most wouldn't work if people could actually see each other and frankly I'm not sure I'd want to see them. Lets face it, video phones haven't exactly taken off have they for the very same reason, most normal people don't want to be seen.

YouTube already allows you to reply to a video with a video posting of your own if you so desire, is this so different or is it just laid out in a slightly different manner?

If its a success whats to stop it being copied by a million other websites including YouTube? Its not a new technology its simply a video posting website crossed with a forum.
Well done to them for thinking of it but a "vision of the future"? Hardly.

I was one of the lucky folks to be at the Coach and Horses last night and, to be fair, I am [still] sceptical about the power of Seesmic. It's a great system for sure and it has empowered a large number of users to produce very interesting video content. There are a number of innovations to come (Loic showed us some last night) and when they hit the market I can see Seesmic taking off like a rocket. Good Luck Loic!

BTW - it's not a YouTube replacement - it's videoblogging plus...

Keith, don't think of this as a replacement, think of Seesmic as an augmentation to online video. And as for showing your face early in the morning - I've just come from a morning run here in San Francisco and am about to show mine!

You get used to it. (-:

(I'm part of the Seesmic Team)

Keith - that's a great way of putting it, a "social videoconference". :)

And no, there are no music videos or old tv clips on Seesmic. When we want to watch those kinds of video's we'll load up YouTube as fast as the next person.

Seesmic is about conversation between people and by focusing on such we get some amazing debates and discussion occurring. We even package the best ones each day and create a short programme out of them called Seesmix.

I completely hear you about being unsure of showing you face on camera - but just a few years ago people were unsure about writing their personal feelings on blogs, and a few years before that many were scared of just touching a computer in case they broke it.

Attitudes change over time, especially when the massive benefits of embracing new technology can be clearly demonstrated.

I hope, when the site goes public, you'll give it a try!

  • 10.
  • At 05:39 PM on 18 Jan 2008,
  • Pascal wrote:

Ben > "Attitudes change over time, especially when the massive benefits of embracing new technology can be clearly demonstrated" but not my face or see others' faces - especially first thing in the morning!! or with repelling lighting and bad quality sound :-)

(I'm with Google)

Great interview.

"YouTube is about the videos, Seesmic is about the people in the videos"
tells very clearly why seesmic has a good chance of being successful: to put it in the terms of Jyri Engestrom from Jaiku (now at Google), the object that seesmic socializes is a conversation, it's not about the video.
And in my book Loic and his team have pretty good answers to Jyri's 5 principles for building a successful social service (see
http://strange.corante.com/archives/2007/06/13/nmkforum07_jyri_of_jaiku.php).

I've used it myself to explain OpenSocial to the seesmic community and it was great experience. I'm sure I'll use the service more in 2008.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RM8pyye1E0U

Good luck to the seesmic team... and I hope they implement OpenSocial in 2008:-)

P@

I am a member of seesmic and I can honestly say a week or two ago I had my most engaging experience on the internet using seesmic. People up late in the UK and people getting up in AU. You really cannot understand the sense of community and good feeling you get. I have never experienced anything like it.

If you'd like to follow the ongoing seesmic conversation you may so so at the seesmic rss feed archival site http://seesmax.com/

  • 14.
  • At 10:07 PM on 18 Jan 2008,
  • James wrote:

I believe this will be huge, it is in effect though just like webcam chatrooms but now with better broadband & video players it is evolving further.
BlogTV is also a similar concept I guess. As he says, due to the fact that it is live, it is a different beast to youtube & it will cater to a whole range of different markets, not least the glamourous facebook people who love having their lives online for everyone to see.
I forsee a portable seesmic/apple device that people can just plonk down wherever they go so that their friend who cannot go out with them because they are sick etc can still listen & interact with their conversations as well as anyone else around the world that may be let in to their conversation - again, all very big brotherish.
Very natural, humorous interview by the way, I think the founder will get noticed & his company will do well.

I don't think video conference is the right metaphor. Seesmic is "Turn Based" conversation. Each user has a chance to capture their complete thought without being interrupted, that becomes their post. Other users do the same in reply. Live conference among multiple users is "interruption" based conversation similar to what happens in the real world when two or more people are talking. In live conversation, you don't always get a chance to get your thought completely out because someone might cut you off and start talking. On Seesmic, this doesn't happen, each post is that person's "moment in time" thought on a particular topic. Because of the Turn Based Conversation, the typical posts have a lot of thought and insight built into them. Yes, sometimes, they are silly, but other times amazing conversations take place that could not be executed in any other format. With TBC, everyone is equal.

Darren- As an avid techie blogger and reader, I'm not sure that those outside of the tech blogosphere have heard of Seesmic yet so thanks for covering this story and getting it to more mainstream readers.

I’m glad you mentioned that Loic’s in no rush to generate revenue and that he’s more interested in scale and users right now. I realize that this may sound like pie-in-the-sky, Dot-Com dreaming but the standout web services companies of late haven’t had pre-define business models when they started (e.g. Google, YouTube, Skype, & Facebook).

See Fred Wilson’s post (the famous NYC VC) on last month’s internet meme, “does Twitter have/need a business model.” That discussion has a lot of applicability to Seesmic and is hopefully what Loic and the Skype guys are thinking too:
http://avc.blogs.com/a_vc/2008/01/twitters-busine.html

@Keith- As Darren notes, it's not meant as a YouTube replacement/killer and as Loic has noted before (can't remember where, maybe at Le Web3 this year) that he doesn't even view Seesmic as a Twitter replacement either.

If you get Twitter, then I think you'll get Seesmic. But if you're into Twitter yet, it may take some time to understand the conversational flow that makes Twitter (and probably Seismic) so addictive. See MIT Tech. Review's interview w/ Twitter founder Ev Williams:
http://www.technologyreview.com/Biztech/19022

@Dave- It's more than just forums, which are impersonal and used for mostly pre-defined, discrete actions (getting help, posting software patches, etc.). While forums can have thread discussions, I think Seesmic is makes this give-and-take more of a free-flowing conversation. And like Twitter, lends itself to posting anything, whether banal details like "hello world, just woke up and here's what's going on today..." to "I need help with..." It's hard to describe exactly but there's something interesting in following a stream of consciousness from your online and offline friends.

@Darren, @Ben- any chance there might be some Seemsic invites floating around?

Darren- As an avid techie blogger and reader, I'm not sure that those outside of the tech blogosphere have heard of Seesmic yet so thanks for covering this story and getting it to more mainstream readers.

I’m glad you mentioned that Loic’s in no rush to generate revenue and that he’s more interested in scale and users right now. I realize that this may sound like pie-in-the-sky, Dot-Com dreaming but the standout web services companies of late haven’t had pre-define business models when they started (e.g. Google, YouTube, Skype, & Facebook).

See Fred Wilson’s post (the famous NYC VC) on last month’s internet meme, “does Twitter have/need a business model.” That discussion has a lot of applicability to Seesmic and is hopefully what Loic and the Skype guys are thinking too:
http://avc.blogs.com/a_vc/2008/01/twitters-busine.html

@Keith- As Darren notes, it's not meant as a YouTube replacement/killer and as Loic has noted before (can't remember where, maybe at Le Web3 this year) that he doesn't even view Seesmic as a Twitter replacement either.

If you get Twitter, then I think you'll get Seesmic. But if you're into Twitter yet, it may take some time to understand the conversational flow that makes Twitter (and probably Seismic) so addictive. See MIT Tech. Review's interview w/ Twitter founder Ev Williams:
http://www.technologyreview.com/Biztech/19022

@Dave- It's more than just forums, which are impersonal and used for mostly pre-defined, discrete actions (getting help, posting software patches, etc.). While forums can have thread discussions, I think Seesmic is makes this give-and-take more of a free-flowing conversation. And like Twitter, lends itself to posting anything, whether banal details like "hello world, just woke up and here's what's going on today..." to "I need help with..." It's hard to describe exactly but there's something interesting in following a stream of consciousness from your online and offline friends.

@Darren, @Ben- any chance there might be some Seemsic invites floating around?

  • 18.
  • At 01:17 AM on 19 Jan 2008,
  • David P. Shannon wrote:

Nice article/review, and I am not saying that because I am one lucky seesmicers.

I spent a short time lurking to get a feel for how it worked, if it met my expectations and more importantly my needs. The intuitive UI, ease of usec and the incredible community of people, hooked me immediately.

Without a doubt, the seesmic concept is like all great inventions, one that everyone says "why didn't I think of that."

In my case, it goes farther. I can not stop thinking of new ways to use seesmic. I envision so many uses, that I may dub it my Swiss Army Knife or Multi-Tool for communicating on the web.

  • 19.
  • At 01:20 AM on 19 Jan 2008,
  • Dave Shannon wrote:

Nice article/review, and I am not saying that because I am one lucky seesmicers.

I spent a short time lurking to get a feel for how it worked, if it met my expectations and more importantly my needs. The intuitive UI, ease of usec and the incredible community of people, hooked me immediately.

Without a doubt, the seesmic concept is like all great inventions, one that everyone says "why didn't I think of that."

In my case, it goes farther. I can not stop thinking of new ways to use seesmic. I envision so many uses, that I may dub it my Swiss Army Knife or Multi-Tool for communicating on the web.

I think seesmic can be used as a great business building tool for people who have global businesses as well as global partners. I signed up immediately!

  • 21.
  • At 02:52 AM on 19 Jan 2008,
  • Stewaer wrote:

No offense but in the adult market we've had this technology for a couple of years...we also do 3G mobile to web and vice versa...

  • 22.
  • At 07:00 AM on 19 Jan 2008,
  • Andrew Martin wrote:

Too much PR, hype, hard sell, plugging by the Seesmic team for me to believe this idea has any merit.

thanks for this very cool article and glad having met you in London Darren, see U soon.

http://www.loiclemeur.com/english/2008/01/bbc-news---sees.html

  • 24.
  • At 10:04 AM on 19 Jan 2008,
  • Ben wrote:

I don't think that Dave Cumming is right when he asserts that people want anonymity and don't want to be seen.

What I would say is that those who want anonymity and who don't want to be seen do like text-based forums - they can be as rude as they like to others without any fear of retribution.

It seems to me that this could well appeal to those who don't like text-based forums because some anonymous users are so unpleasant. It seems a happy place.

  • 25.
  • At 11:00 AM on 19 Jan 2008,
  • Catherine wrote:

Love the accent!

  • 26.
  • At 09:50 PM on 19 Jan 2008,
  • Freddy wrote:

And lemeur put all videos on youtube ;-)) As usual, Lemeur says "great" and some rich dummies (called investors) will loose money. So funny

  • 27.
  • At 11:38 AM on 20 Jan 2008,
  • JoeP wrote:

It does look rather like vBulletin / phpBB or similar discussion forums with video rather than text.

As such it is an exclusive technology compared to the more traditional conversation forums - it excludes those who don't have or can't use that sort of technology.

Whilst it does that it's another toy for the techno-boys, I'm afraid.

I'm afraid I don't get 'twitter' either - the transience fits with the lifestyle of many participants, and I don't get teh value of posting 'I've just got off an aeroplane' to a bunch of total strangers. :-)

But, best of luck to them with it.

It seems like an interesting idea, and i hope that it all goes well, i am enjoying all of these new ideas for websites becoming popular. I am not sure if i would use it myself as firstly i don;t have a webcam and secondly i am rather shy :)

  • 29.
  • At 08:45 AM on 21 Jan 2008,
  • John Hobson wrote:

There's no market for video on mobiles, teleconferencing has been touted as the next big thing for almost two decades so why will this be any more successfull? Despite the SF movies in reality the general public don't like the idea of live video feeds.

As for all the posts about a sense of community...please get out more!

  • 30.
  • At 09:50 AM on 21 Jan 2008,
  • Sicba wrote:

It is a wonderful NEW idea...No doubt about that. Its going to take the conversations through text into the next level. I think it would replace YouTube in this manner - once it is well known by people around all the people's interest would go towards that as it is more interactive...But ofcourse for watching Videos websites like Youtube would still be used...But progressively the people's interest would go towards this NEW thing and eventually replace sites like Youtube...COrrect me if I am wrong...

  • 31.
  • At 12:44 PM on 21 Jan 2008,
  • Peter Donohoe wrote:

I get the feeling that Seesmic ordered the troops to the BBC to big up this so-so "innovation".

"Quickly to the BBC, flood them with praise".

  • 32.
  • At 02:21 PM on 29 Jan 2008,
  • howard wrote:

Working in the community/voluntary sector is all about face to face communications with people. However, across a rural area (Devon)this is often beyond budget, in terms of travel costs and time. I'm going to give Seesmic a good try - see if it will serve to draw people together who otherwise wouldn't meet. It might well appeal to people who are isolated at home by disability.
Downside at the moment is it will exclude people who don't own a pc or can't afford broadband (plenty over here in our unequal kingdom) and there is still the issue of ease-of-use. Please, it needs to be about three times simpler than Skype!

This post is closed to new comments.

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

BBC.co.uk