There comes a time in a grown man’s life when he fancies his chances of winning a battle where the odds are clearly stacked against him. Turned out that for the 4 co-founders at Shufflr this irrational persuasion sprouted at around the same time. We unofficially started Althea Systems in late 2008.
All we knew then was that we wanted to build a kick-ass product the world would love. We experimented with everything from electronic whiteboards to geo-tagging. However we soon gravitated towards the online video space. It just seemed like a fertile space with a lot of scope for innovation. Shufflr was just an idea then. Many late night arguments, cappuccinos & pizzas later it morphed itself to being what it is today – a social video browser.
The online video space is buzzing with innovation, starting with the likes of Boxee that’s looking to bring online video to TV screens, video ad platforms like YuMe, publishers like Brighcove, discovery engines like Clicker, channels made for the web like Funny or die and many more.
Shufflr however is built on these two premises:
- Online video is growing at an exponential rate. This is leading to a paradox of choice. What to watch?
- An individual will consume online video across multiple devices – notebook, TV set, handset & tablet during different times of the day. A service that can straddle all these devices seamlessly and deliver a personalized video experience on each will be invaluable.
The paradox of choice
200 channels of cable and there is still nothing to watch when you want to. Online streaming video has fixed that problem by delivering video that you want to watch, on demand. However, what online video has also done is multiply the number of channels available at your fingertips from 200 to many thousands. Now you are like a 5 year old in toys “R” us – you want to play with everything in the store but just don’t have enough time. You now have access to millions of videos from bloggers, magazine publishers, documentaries, music videos, how-to videos, television shows & movies from around the world all available at a click of the mouse. YouTube alone adds about 24 hrs of video every minute to their site. How do you decide which one to watch? How do you know a new video you like has been added? How do you know if a new channel has cropped up that’s becoming a sensation online?
Shufflr is a social video browser with smart discovery engines. It facilitates the discovery process thru a multi-pronged strategy (we call it a video pitchfork):
- Personalized Recommendations : Suggests videos you may like based on your profile and viewing habits. The machine learns more about your preferences over time
- Associations: This is similar to YouTube’s related video concept except that we suggest related video from multiple sites around the web including Metacafe, NYT, Comedy central etc.
- Social feeds: Many a time we watch a video when someone mails us a link. Shufflr brings a twitter like approach to social video. We help you discover people with similar tastes, allow you to find & follow your friends, in the process discover interesting videos to watch. Imagine following Seinfeld and seeing the videos he shares?
- Smart search: Though we don’t believe search is the best method to discover video we increase relevance of the search based on your profile & social activity on Shufflr.
Mobility and the video experience
With broadband becoming ubiquitous and devices like the iPad mushrooming, it’s a good time for online video services. Shufflr was built from ground-up with this assumption. We put all our personalization smarts in the cloud so we can build thin clients that focus on the user experience.
Each device has a unique form factor and use case. We believe that the client on each of these devices will deliver an experience that matches its form factor and use case yet deliver the same level of content personalization. As a user you can seamlessly switch from one to the other and continue where you left off.
Shufflr’s first avatar is the desktop client. It is a video browser with an immersive visual experience that sets it apart from regular text based browsers. Shufflr is predominantly a lean-forward interactive browser with all the social hooks to share, discover and view videos you like. We’ve got content from The New York Times, Comedy Central, Lonely Planet, Discovery, TED, PBS, Funny or Die and many more.
So what are you waiting for? Download and give it a spin. We’d love to hear from you.
In the days to come we will be telling you more about our experiences in consumer land…..so stay tuned.