Want to sit back, relax, and watch comedic cat videos? blinkx, an online video search engine, wants to help you unleash your inner couch potato.
The British company is redesigning its Web site by adding three new buttons: "Entertain Me," "Inform Me," and "Give Me My Own Channel." The idea is to help people get different classes of videos--entertaining videos, news, and videos related what they've sought before--without having to explicitly search for it.
"You don't have to say what you want. We'll just find it for you. We'll just supply it to you passively, like with TV," said Chief Executive and founder Suranga Chandratillake.
Online video is booming. December was a record month, with U.S. viewers watching 14.3 billion online videos, 41 percent of them at Google, which operates YouTube. blinkx's business is to try to connect people to these videos using search technology that looks not just at metadata such as video titles, but also words that are spoken and detected with speech recognition technology.
Of course the key for businesses is making money on the popularity of online video. blinkx sells ads, probably with an ads-per-minute formula similar to what people are used to with TV, Chandratillake said. However, "When we first launch, we won't put on a lot of ads," he said.
Having tested the new options a bit, I can confirm the service works--and that getting your work done is tough when inundated with a dancing horses, Bruce Lee playing ping-pong with nunchucks, and adorable bunnies in bowls. It's nice that there's a skip-ahead button to pass on the stuff you don't care about, but after a few videos, I got three Paul Hunt transvestite gymnastic comedy routines in a sequence of four videos, and after about 20 videos I started getting repeats. So it looks like blinkx's algorithm could use some sprucing up.
What I miss: no full-screen mode, no volume adjustment, no ability to rate videos to train the engine what entertaining videos you like (though there is a "similar videos" button), and no ability to click out to the original video if you want to rate it, share it with friends, or leave a comment.
The new blinkx modes aren't totally passive. While watching the videos, users can click on a "more information button," which blinkx internally calls the geek button because it enables more control and options for what's showing.
For example, blinkx analyzes the video content, letting people skip ahead to different scenes via thumbnail images shown in the video player. And the application also can show faces of people in the video, letting users click on them to skip around the video.
The company's service shows video from a variety of sources. In the case of video from about 450 partners, blinkx hosts it, but some is hosted elsewhere and embedded at the site, and in the case of the search results, blinkx only offers descriptions and thumbnails that link to other sites' video.
The company has 65 employees and is hiring, Chandratillake said. In the six months ended Sept. 1, the company garnered $6.5 million in revenue; analysts expect $13 million to $14 million for the full fiscal year, which ends in March, he said.
"We expect to hit profitability in 2010," Chandratillake added.