Before Flickr, we had no simple way to share photos online. Before YouTube, we had no simple way to share videos. Before Instagram, we had no simple way to share photos from our phones. And by this logic, is there a simple, addictive solution to sharing video from our phones that no one has yet imagined?
Cloudee is a new iOS app by Boxee–the same guys who created the first great way to stream web video content to televisions. It promises to be an easy way to share videos from mobile devices. And no one at the company is denying the clear UI inspiration, with a caveat: “Although at first blush the simplicity of Cloudee may seem reminiscent of Instagram, we actually don’t think it looks or behaves like Instagram at all,” insists Avner Ronen, CEO and co-founder of Boxee.
Video sharing is a tougher nut to crack than photos. For one, the files are bigger, making the uploads take longer. Instagram feels instantaneous partly because of some creative coding, partly because their photos are tiny. No video service could ever be this fast on current hardware. It’s also inherently more cumbersome to browse a friend’s videos casually. And personally, I’m not huge on people sharing photos of me, but video is a bit terrifying (and I say this as a guy who started his career behind a camera).
“Videos are extremely different from photos,” Ronen acknowledges. “They take longer to capture and longer to consume. They are much more revealing, since they expose interactions and voices. They are much more intimate. They can also invoke much more emotion. This is why we believe most people will want to keep most of their videos very private.”
Private? Wait. But didn’t we all just agree that Cloudee is fundamentally modeled after Instagram? Isn’t it meant to be the first easy way to share videos online? Yes, and no.
In use, Cloudee feels one-part Instagram, one-part Google+. The feed displays friends’ videos almost identically to Instagram, but the sharing of videos feels entirely different. With every uploaded video, users are asked to define its audience–from everyone, to just a few particular friends on Facebook, to an SMS meant for a relative that’s not even on Cloudee. And each video you upload must be cataloged into a collection, a video scrapbook that’s also public, private, or shared between a few friends.
“The activity feed gives a glimpse into the latest updates, but the experience is not designed to be transient,” Ronen tells Co.Design. “The videos that are stored on Cloudee are meant to be long lasting and growing.”
This makes Cloudee’s goal totally different from Instagram’s. It’s not just trying to be the video sharing service of the moment, it’s trying to be the video saving service of your life. And while I think that’s a perfectly noteworthy aspiration, as I wait for my first video to upload on Verizon’s aging 3G connection, I can’t help but to wonder if the next big market in video is a huge design challenge, sure, but one that we can barely discuss before 4G bandwidth (or something even faster) becomes the norm.