TECH TALK: Best of Tech Talk 2006: Video and Social Networks

One of the longer series this year was on Video on the Internet. Along with social networking and user-generated content, video was a dominant theme through the year. This is what I wrote in the introduction:

Companies like Rajshri Media (in which I have an investment) will take Indian video content to audiences globally. Then, as broadband becomes more widely available in India, the domestic traffic will start rising. In India, a number of telcos are planning to launch IP-TV services over the next few months.

Video will also come to mobile phones in fact, it has already started. Short clips of movies, ranging from 30 seconds to a few minutes, are already available for download across many Indian mobile operators. Mobile TV can manifest itself in another form through direct terrestrial broadcasting much like FM is available on many mobiles phones.

The one interesting element in the growth of video is the role of user-generated content. In the past six months, sites like YouTube have shot up in popularity. Google and Yahoo have launched their own video initiatives. Apples video iPod is a popular consumption device. The huge blue ocean of video archives from TV and movies is starting to come online. Every sports event causes an upsurge of interest and brings it with millions of new video consumers on the Internet.

These are the early days of video to the Internet. There are multiple business models being experimented with. It is not clear whether video on the Internet will be subsidized by advertising like much of the text Internet. What is clear, though, is that the ultimate form of human expression is set to begin its reign on the Internet. It should be good for content owners and users, and eventually, businesses who can communicate their messages in a more targeted form to users. It is time to get ready for the Videonet!

Three other Tech Talks aggregated opinion on MySpace, YouTube and Cyworld. This is what I wrote in the Cyworld series:

Social Networking sites in India are starting to happen. Google’s Orkut has the early advantage, but there are many others which have been launched or are in the pipeline. One factor that needs to be taken into account in India is that PC and Internet usage, though high in numbers, is not free and always available. Much of the Internet access happens from cybercafes for which users have to pay by the minute. This tends to limit the potential of social networking via a computer.

In India, I think mobiles will have to be the primary device for social networking because they are with us all the time. But mobiles too have their inherent limitations. Data networks are still quite expensive to use. Getting applications on phones is hard. SMS and voice are the only two universal interaction modes available on all phones. The challenge and opportunity lies in leveraging the mobile as a social networking platform keeping in mind the future. Phones are becoming multimedia computers, data networks will become more affordable, and the mobile internet will become much more of a reality. Japan and South Korea have demonstrated early successes in combining mobiles and social networking. India too can do the same in the next 12-18 months. In that context, we have to more to learn from a Cyworld than a MySpace or a Facebook. Keeping in mind Danah Boyd’s definition and translating it for India is what will create India’s Cyworld. The jigsaw puzzle is waiting to be solved.

Tomorrow: Changing India

Best of Tech Talk 2006+T

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Rajesh Jain

An Entrepreneur based in Mumbai, India.