Social networking and video feeds would seem to be a match made in heaven. But with the epic failure of Fox's live on-TV Twitter experiment, is there a better way to link video and discussion chat? Synchtube might be a good indicator.
The site is a virtual chatroom front-end for YouTube videos, and in essence the way it works couldn't be simpler: You tap in the HTML link to the YouTube clip you want to talk about with someone, and it presents you with a new screen that contains the embedded clip and a scrolling chatroom box. You become the "leader" of that room then, and you have the choice to make it publicly accessible to anyone who wants to drop by, or retain it as a private event—in which case you can invite friends aboard by emailing them a link to the chat page. Users can remain unnamed or type in a nickname, and the discussion rolls upwards in a way that'll be familiar to users of 37Signal's Campfire online group collaboration tool.
See what I mean? Simple. But what's the use of this? In its current beta mode, Synchtube is pretty basic—dropping you randomly into some of the public chats when you click on "join public room," for example. Here you'll find many of the same inane or puerile discussions that plague YouTube clips, only this time in real time. And that's certainly one use of the system—a way for friends to chat cross-campus about the funny face-plant video that's today's phenomenon on YouTube.
But if you're a distributed team, then it's an ideal collaborative tool for looking at video content. That's why I dropped in the Campfire reference above—Campfire works as a rolling chatroom that centers on text-based discussion, with HTML-embedable links, and you could almost see Synchtube as its video-based counterpart. The way that you can introduce a new YouTube URL and maintain the same chat environment makes it almost ideal if your team is working with a number of videos, trying to draw together content for a bigger task, for example. This functionality really would take off if Synchtube added in proper private log-in setting, and linked to video from other video sharing sites too.
Maybe what Synchtube really is is a model for how to integrate social networking and video in a much more successful way than Fox's disastrous Twitter experiment. And as social networking extends into more and more areas of online (and offline) life, then it's also simply a sign of things to come.