Racing to stay one step ahead of Google and Yahoo, blinkx today launched "my blinkx.tv," a service that weds the startup's well-regarded video search engine with user personalization and participation features. In so doing, blinkx adds momentum to the creeping convergence of the Internet and television known as IPTV.
"There's been a huge amount of noise about IPTV, but we've yet to see any real progress in this area," blinkx founder Suranga Chandratillake said in a statement. "At blinkx, we believe that IPTV should combine the interactive, customizable experience of the Internet, with the simple, seamless way we watch TV—with my blinkx.tv, we are collaborating with our users to experiment with how we think that might look."
No one's quite sure how IPTV will look when it grows up. It's not clear what the term even means. Loosely defined, it refers to video content distributed using the Internet Protocol. And for some companies, that's enough.
Earlier this year, SBC Communications Inc. began construction on Project Lightspeed, a three-year, $4 billion initiative to build an IP-based network that uses Microsoft TV software as its IPTV services platform. The company aims to deliver advanced television, data and voice features that surpass current offerings. The project is expected to reach some 18 million customers by 2007.
In January, Verizon agreed to use the Microsoft TV platform for its new FiOS TV service. And numerous other media and telecom companies have similar plans to take advantage of the Internet as a distribution channel.
If IPTV turns out to be only network TV with IP distribution, the game is already over. It will belong to the traditional content providers, cable and telecom companies, and Microsoft. But many Internet companies and Internet users have their own ideas about IPTV.
The Internet is a participatory culture and users are not just viewers, but content producers. Blogs, photo sharing services, and podcasts have demonstrated that proclivity with regard to text, still images, and audio files. The same thing is happening with videos, despite the fact that producing polished video is significantly harder than penning a pithy blog posting.
The increasing popularity of video blogs, or "vlogs," such as RocketBoom.com, online video-aggregation sites like the Open Media Network (http://www.omn.org/), personal-content server software like Broadcast Machine (http://participatoryculture.org/broadcast/), and—if the rumors prove true—the eventual delivery of a video-capable iPod, together foretell a future full of video content.
To some extent it's already happening. Alta Vista, blinkx, Google, MSN, and Yahoo all offer video search because there's enough content to require a search engine. And some search engines are aiming to keep tabs on new video as it gets created.
Google offers the Google Video upload program that allows users to submit videos files for hosting. In a clear sign that the company has further video ambitions, the company in September posted (and two days later withdrew) a job opening for someone to identify key market trends including "the intersection of Internet and Television technologies, Video-On-Demand, Personal Video Recorders and emergence of next generation set-top-boxes with IP connectivity."
Similarly, my blinkx.tv allows users to upload and store their video blogs for free. But it takes video search a step further by allowing users to save specific keyword queries as a "channel" that constantly gets updated with relevant video content. This channel can be viewed online or downloaded to the desktop. For example, the keyword query "Hurricane Katrina" could be used to group a wide variety of storm-related newscasts, video blogs, and home movies as series of video segments—a sort of personal severe weather channel.
Blinkx.tv has long offered the ability to search newscasts from global media organizations such as the BBC and CNN. Following today's addition of user-created content, the company also expects to offer mainstream commercial content in the future, if and when a suitable financial arrangement can be made with commercial content owners.