Seesmic, a video chat service startup which gained some prominence due to its founder’s “friendship” with A-List bloggers, appears to be shifting its focus from video to compete in the Twitter ecosystem. They have almost removed any signs of video service from their homepage except for a link to the service through a subdomain.
This is not a complete surprise to me. Even though I joined the site immediately after it was released, I lost enthusiasm after some time because I was not comfortable with video chats with strangers on arbitrary topics. There are many reasons why Seesmic could not become the Twitter for video.
- People have general reluctance to show their face. After all web based conversations became a huge hit because of the relative anonymity it offered to the users.
- Even though every laptop has a video camera now a days, it is still a small number compared to people accessing the web.
- Twitter was largely successful because people could tweet irrespective of where they are. Doing a text chat from the browser during office hours is possible but not video chat. Also, twitter can be accessed using mobile clients and, more importantly, SMS (SMS is one of the reasons it is hugely successful in countries like India). Seesmic didn’t have a mobile client (well, they offered an option to ftp using Shozu but did they seriously expect users to do that?) and they didn’t offer an option to send video through MMS either (Maybe, Loic has iPhone through AT&T :-)).
In my opinion, the Seesmic video conversation idea is a non starter from the beginning itself. Due to a push by powerful bloggers like Mike Arrington and Robert Scoble during the initial stages, they saw some decent activity. Once the buzz waned, the usage fell off. In fact, it has been ages since I visited the site. I would say it is a smart move by Loic as the product is well ahead of the time. Until use of mobile video becomes mainstream and people get used to the idea of putting a face to their social media chatter, a service like Seesmic has no chance. Probably, Loic could manage to push Seesmic Twitter client harder so that it gains stream and then find a business model on top of it. The chances of success in this category is better than the video chat space. We will have to wait and see how his company shapes up. Good luck to Loic and his team.