The question the new app MixBit needs to answer is: “Does the world need another mobile video app?”
Early notices on this new app frequently compared it to the six-second video sensation Vine, or perhaps the copycat a 15-second features added to Instagram. But MixBit differs sharply from those apps, functionally and also in philosophy.
This iOS app (Android coming soon they say) is more like a miniature editing bay for filmmakers or television news teams. Individual clips as long as 16 seconds can be shot, and then stitched together into a finished video that can run up to an hour in length. Better still, other users can use the video, or the individual clips, to remix and remake it with their own videos.
There are some truly magical stop-motion vignettes on Vine (see here for example), but those have to be perfectly captured in the moment, there’s no way to reshuffle or retake a particular moment with your smartphone. Instagram only recently allowed users videos not taken with the camera (say, from professional editing software) but it too is focused on the finished product. MixBit appears to lack that feature at the moment, even though their promo video is clearly an edited product that has been uploaded.
But MixBit’s most intriguing feature (and one they may eventually be forced to abandon) is the total lack of personal branding: There’s no user identification on the clips and videos, no “channels” or personalities to follow (which is the dominant form of community building on Vine and Instagram, built on the Twitter model). In other words, you don’t have to sign up for anything to create and post videos.
Not that there aren’t benefits to registering: Once you sign up you can also save clips from videos viewed on MixBit’s website, so it doesn’t all have to happen in-app.
The ease of access, the remixing, the insta-sharing, is all of a piece with the mission statement on the MixBit site: “We want to help people make great videos.”
It goes on: “We think video should be a living, breathing entity and that creativity is a collaborative process. More than simply capturing brief moments in time, we help people bring stories to life.”
Sounds like the usual “change the world” rhetoric of Silicon Valley startups, but the men who made it have some experience in backing their claims up.
Eons ago, practically in the Internet Dark Ages, a couple of 20-something buddies guys sold a video uploading service to a search engine for a cool $1.65-billion.
Back in 2006, the entire world gasped at Google’s largest purchase to date, an all-stock deal that made YouTube co-founders Chad Hurley (29) and Steve Chen (27) rich men. Some reports put Hurley's haul at more than $400-million.
At that point YouTube hadn’t made a dime, it was a startup living off venture cash with offices above a San Mateo Pizzeria (they had moved to real offices in San Bruno by the time the deal was consummated). These days the site has roughly 50 million unique viewers, according to research firm ComScore, and it streams about 4 billion videos a day.
Now, with the backing of Google Ventures, Mr. Chen (who left YouTube in 2008) and Mr. Hurley (who was CEO of YouTube until 2010) have co-founded AVOS, the company behind MixBit.
In an interview with Fast Company, Mr. Hurley now suggests that Google’s recent moves to get more professional videos onto YouTube are a mistake and potentially damaging to the community that made his first creation into an Internet sensation.
“I feel that’s a more traditional approach to solving the problem. It’s basically replicating the studio model...” said Mr. Hurley. “I’m looking for something that doesn’t necessarily alienate any group of people, but gives them all equal access.”
That’s not an unheard of criticism, but it could make for awkward conversations at the board meetings. But if MixBit becomes the next paradigm of how Web video sharing and creation will work, at least Google knows where to send the paperwork for another buyout.