Indian Internet start-up Shufflr, run by Bangalore-based Althea Systems Inc., hopes to be like the Last.fm of online video.
Last.fm is a popular Web radio and music discovery service (with more than 20 million users) that “learns” according to your taste, classifying and categorizing music based on individual preferences. Do you like this new dark, industrial rock song with crunchy power riffs? Last.fm can help find music that’s similar, based on what other users are listening to. It’s also a social networking site centred around music—helping users gravitate towards other people with similar tastes.
Shufflr hopes to do the same for video—with millions of videos uploaded on to sites such as YouTube and Vimeo, the site will act like a virtual programming guide customized to your tastes and preferences. “We call it a social video browser,” says Althea Systems’ chief executive Vinod Gopinath. “With increasing consumption of online video, discovering the good stuff becomes difficult, and that’s where we come in.”
Shufflr works, like most online platforms, by adding a “social” layer to the act of consumption. Videos you “like” and tag are matched with similarly tagged videos that other people have watched. Shufflr also picks up online chatter from sites such as Facebook and Twitter to create recommendations, or deduce what you might enjoy next. “We use a combination of filters for the task—from recommendations and social feeds, to ‘crowdsourced’ categorization and related videos.” Videos are then put into what Gopinath calls “buckets”, which makes discovery easier.
Videos R Us: A screenshot of the Shufflr application
A caveat here is that Shufflr does not filter for adult content, or what’s collectively called “NSFW” (Not Safe for Work) video. “We’re not claiming to be 100% family-safe,” says Gopinath, “but we point our trained crawler bots (bits of code that trawl video sites, indexing new videos as they appear), if you will, towards safe sites.”
“It’s not just restricted to YouTube,” Gopinath says. “It’s video sites from all over the Internet, plus videos from content companies like NDTV and TV18.” Copyright and geographical barriers, however, still apply—so access to restricted content from, say, the BBC (whose videos can only be viewed in the UK) will still be off limits.
Shufflr doesn’t work in your browser like most online services, but as a separate, free downloadable application. “We made it downloadable because we saw that this format could be successful,” says Gopinath. He cites the example of free Twitter application Tweetdeck, or slick photo browser Cooliris. “The Shufflr app is the first of many clients we hope to release,” says Gopinath. “We’re hoping to be present on many devices—tablets, smartphones, you name it.”
While Shuffr indexes content from Indian content providers—Zoom, Bigflix and CNBC, among others—its focus is a nebulous “global market”. “We don’t want to get labelled as an ‘Indian’ site too quickly,” says Gopinath.
The Shufflr application for Windows, Macintosh and Linux can be downloaded at www.Shufflr.tv