Saturday, November 18, 2006

Apple and Social Software, Part 2

Thanks to everyone that responded to my message on Apple's role in Web 2.0 Social Software on the QuickTime User List.
I don't doubt Apple will stay dominant in the video creation field, and in the iPod/iTunes/iTV/iPhone/etc..ecosystem.
And I received some good suggestions on addressing the challenges in our own intranet, which I am researching.

My already stated concern is that QuickTime use is minimal in the new popular Digital Social Networks: blogs, wikis, mashups, etc. The "blogosphere" alone is big, 57 million blogs tracked by Technorati. As we use QT here for the delivery of course material, we would like to see it succeed also in Web 2.0.

There was a short period, when the video bloggers first started, when QT was actually the most popular format for user-generated video in social networks, the vbloggers were usually producing their snippets using iMovie or on Macs, and it was natural to export to QT. However, YouTube then came along, and we know the rest of the story.

However, I don't think it's too late for Apple to make a move with QuickTime, and I have refined my thinking a bit, so am reposting. Here is my revised thinking.

To be successful in this new web world, QT has to at least be able to do what Flash does now:

1. Make QT web-friendly. Be able to embed a QT movie in a web page, and not have it download until the play button is pushed. QT is track based, it seems a natural for combining a poster movie, audio track, and video track inside one .mov. This creation could be automated with QT Player Pro, giving Apple another reason to sell it. Or a developer could pick this up.

2. Make QT popular (or at least common). Sponsor a video sharing area where you can upload your movies (QT and non-QT), not have them re-compressed if not needed, and if needed, encode to QT (and Flash if deemed necessary). Even Microsoft has started their own video sharing site, Soapbox. MS must have felt it was the only way WMV would retain a presence on the web. Soapbox movies are encoded twice, btw, the Mac version is in Flash, showing you how much confidence MS has in the future of WMV on the Mac.

I know Revver distributes in QT, but only for downloading. If Apple does not want to start its own video-sharing site, maybe partner with a company like Revver, help develop and polish its product, and assist with the back end.

3. Make QT easy to share. Enable easy copy/paste code from the above #2 in QT format to a blog, MySpace, wiki, etc. Apple understood podcasting and syndication, and got a good head start. But that is a totally different model, it's a ONE-TO-MANY model. I publish, you subscribe and experience, with no direct feedback.

A big chunk of the new web is MANY-TO-MANY, with countless links between different people's blogs, video sites, tags, image sites, etc. Right now, QT is an outsider in the Many-to-many social networks, which are much more numerous, and quite different from the rss One-to-many networks.

I think the above "big 3" are all needed, they all work off each other, and 2 out of 3 is not enough. However, then you could add:

4. Make QT movies customizable. Make the skin selectable, kind of like Odeo does, but incorporated as part of the movie itself. Skins could be downloaded, and installed/activated in QT Player Pro, another reason to buy it. Or a developer can pick this up.
People on the web want to customize their own "net space", and create their own unique digital identities.
Blogging and wiki hosting sites have many skins to choose from, bloggers have thousands of free widgets to select, on top of Flash movies, Photobucket/Flickr images, other blogs, etc...etc...
People are furnishing their empty web apartments. Make it easy to hang a nice QT movie on the wall, with that neat frame no-one has seen before.

I have seen some encouraging signs for the future in Leopard server:
a wiki server (many to many, but I don't see any reference to video)

and a podcast producer/server (one-to-many, but this is a good market Apple is successful in and needs to stay in)

I don't know if the above will enable any of the features on my "wish list" at the small end of the scale (education, SMB), but I would like to see those issues also addressed at the large end.

One of my final concerns is that if there isn't a viable audience for QT on the web, this technology is going to lose developers.
We are going to have great podcasters, video editors and compressionists, but who is going to put together neat things like the chattering video wall?

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