I love viral videos—perhaps more than I should. It's just so much fun, that it's easy to sometimes forget that there are a multitude of things to like about video beyond just viral advertising. We're still in the early stages of the life of online video, and we continue to see more and more new uses for it—areas of traditional business where video can provide a better or cheaper experience.
For instance, we wrote in August about how IBM is using video to revolutionize their internal processes. We write about experimental new video ads, like YouTube's live-streaming banner ad from last week.
Earlier today I read about a new start-up that aims to use video to revolutionize yet another market—the online question-and-answer market. It's called VYou (which stands for "virtual you"), and is described by Techcrunch as Formspring meets YouTube meets Twitter.
I don't spend a lot of time doing Q&A stuff online, so maybe I'm not the target audience. But while "video Q&A" seems like a killer idea to me, it does feel a bit like VYou is going out of their way to avoid explaining what they do. I can be frustrating when the verbiage on a new website is just vague enough to keep me from clearly understanding the service or product.
Here's what their home page says:
"Make conversational video. Broadcast to the world or share privately among friends.”
That's it. And honestly, that's not terribly clear to me. Thankfully, they've got some more text on the sidebar:
"1. Receive Messages. Friends and visitors enter messages and see your recorded responses to them. 2. Create Video Responses. If you have no response to their messages, you are notified and create some, and even personalize videos for friends. 3. A Virtual You Evolves. Over time, an interactive database of your knowledge evolves, and is stored for life. You may easily add, change, and update it to stay current.”
Wait, what? Man, when did people stop using plain English to explain services? Where's CommonCraft when you need them? Okay, I will just click the About page, because I can usually find some plain-English about a company and its main services from an About page.
Wrong. VYou's about page is blank:
And yes, I know they're in Beta, but since when did being in Beta mean you didn't have to put actual content on your pages? Their product/service is in Beta… their corporate website About page isn't. I'm just saying.
So I'm left to guess. And I guess… it's cool? I'm certainly intrigued—even excited—about the concept of a video Q&A site, particularly one that lets you ask questions of celebrities. So, in the interest of journalistic integrity, I signed up for an account. The sign-up process is quick and painless, however I was warned at the end that I only have a partial account, and won't be able to make videos until I get activated to full status, which should be in the next 48 hours (so they say).
Playing around a little once I had created an account gives a bit more detailed a look at what VYou is all about. It really is Twitter meets Q&A. You follow certain users—and there are a great deal of "celebrity" users. Then, once logged in, you'll see a "feed" of all the video answers the people you follow have submitted to various questions they've been asked. If you want to ask a question, you can do so. If you get asked a question, you can answer it.
I do wonder about time constraints with a service like this. I don't think it's really intended for people who desperately need an answer to some important question right away. Because who is going to take the time to set up a camera and film themselves, only to wait for the proper response afterward? No one, if the need for information is urgent.
However, there are an awful lot of non-urgent things people want to ask other people, and for those more-casual queries, VYou seems perfect. And it's unique in the celebrity aspect, having lined up a number of respected tech and web personalities in advance. Though I had a few issues with getting some of the video responses to load or play (again, they're in Beta, so I won't hold glitches against them), I was quite pleased to see options for embedding the videos, as well as integration buttons for your Facebook or Twitter accounts.
I'm always going to cheer startups that aim to bring video into a new field, so I am optimistic that VYou will take off. Once my account is activated, I'll tinker around with it some more, and will be sure to let you know if there are any interesting new developments in the service.