Althea Systems' Shufflr, will launch today, another newcomer to the crowded lean back video browser space. It attempts to be an all-encompassing social video, search and recommendation engine in one platform. Called "Shufflefeed," it crawls the web ingesting video metadata in an attempt to make a smarter recommendation engine. Althea's CEO, Vinod Gopinath, who I had a chance to talk with last week, explained their belief that a greater service will come out of bringing all of these components together and more importantly mining all of the data.
Shufflr has been available for the past couple of months under an unpublicized open alpha and has attracted thousands of users worldwide. The browser has a slick and intuitive 10-foot optimized interface and focuses solely on video. The videos are shown in a wall format and are fun to scroll through. As for the content, rather than grouping by show or content partner, such as Clicker, Boxee or Roku, it is split into three main verticals, Recommendations, Friends Activity, and Buzz.
For now, the system is pretty insular, with content is culled from a small number of sources, including YouTube, Metacafe, Dailymotion, and Comedy Central, though more deals expected. Vinod explained that while friend-recommended videos currently come from users within the system, in a future release, Shufflr will crawl your social feeds to see what your friends who aren't necessarily using Shufflr are watching. Still, this will only work as well as it has the content logged to match up with your friends' postings.
More intriguing is the Shufflefeed platform itself, which will be pushed out on multiple devices and platforms, offering the prospect of improved navigation and recommendations. Particularly as indie content continues to grow and flourish as viable competition to studio content, consumers will only be able navigate this vast landscape with a more robust recommendation engines. However, Vinod stressed that the algorithms haven't changed all that much, and it is the data that is driving innovation. Shufflefeed seems on the right track with multiple sets of data, leveraging metadata and social data to help the algorithms work better. A big issue for the company moving forward would be if Google sets its sites on this space. Google is of course the king of data and boasts the most widely used search engine. Althea proves though that even as we wait for Google to unleash Google TV on the market, startups can keep spurring innovation.
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