Microsoft licenses Blinkx technology to power video search on parts of MSN and Live.com.
In a growing digital media market that has witnessed YouTube carve out a niche for viral video, Blinkx is looking to make those videos easier to find online.
YouTube is a load of laughs. Finding something specific you want to watch is another matter.
For searching video on the Web, the rich media search player firm Blinkx, which has indexed more than 6 million hours of audio, video and TV programming to make them searchable, recently announced that Microsoft has agreed to use its technology to power video search on some parts of its MSN and Live.com Internet sites.
Beyond Text and Title
Blinkx.tv is emerging as the way consumers on a range of Web sites and media properties find what is available. The firm also said it has revamped its search technology, adding what it calls "video walls" and a "My Playlist" feature.
As consumer interest in watching video on the Web has exploded with the wider availability of broadband connections, Blinkx has focused on going beyond simple text-search methods to develop audio- and image-search tools.
The San Francisco-based company uses voice recognition, image and contextual analysis, which helps computers calculate whether an image may be a human face, a nature setting or some other scene.
"When a computer looks at a piece of video, for the most part, it has no idea what is going on," Forrester Research analyst Josh Bernoff said.
Using Blinkx, a consumer can search for videos based on keywords or phrases. The results reflect not just a search of titles or text information attached to the video but also uses speech recognition to find matching words in audio tracks.
“We will be the single biggest video search engine on the Web,” Suranga Chandratillake, Blinkx co-founder and chief technology officer, said in an interview.
Blinkx also revealed details of its newly revamped search engine, optimized for discovering rich media on the Web. The site delivers results in a user interface designed for sampling and showcasing video footage. It aims to combine the "sit back and watch" element of traditional television with the interactive experience of searching and watching video online.
With the introduction of customizable "video walls," automatically generated popular content channels, and a "My Playlist" feature, Blinkx hopes users will deem it the video search engine of choice.
"People are much better at understanding information visually, so we redesigned Blinkx.tv to display video in a way that is both efficient and compelling to the eye," said Chandratillake.
Customizing Video Search
Using the Blinkx video wall, users can now click "wall it" after searching to create a customized video wall of results. The video wall is a full screen composed of 25 individual screens, each showing a preview of a different video clip.
In this format, users can scroll over the clips to watch a preview. Users can embed their customized video walls in other Web sites, like their blog or MySpace page, so they can share interests with others. The My Playlist feature gives users control over how they group and watch clips. Once created, Playlists can also be shared with other users over e-mail.
Blinkx has also added innovation to the rich media search mix over the years. In 2004, the San Francisco-based angel investor-backed company introduced advanced speech recognition and transcription technology to replace standard metadata-based keyword solutions.
Blinkx's latest iteration takes a new approach to presenting video search results to users. "Video should be delivered visually, not as a text-based list of results," Chandratillake argued.
The firm has a track record for success. Blinkx already powers video search on sites ranging from AOL to ITN, Lycos and Times Online. It also indexes video from the likes of BCC, Fox, MTV, Sky News, Reuters and YouTube and makes videos on those sites searchable on Blinkx or partner sites.
The Microsoft deal and Blinkx' enhanced technology bode well for the company for sure, but Inside Digital Media Senior Analyst Phil Leigh sees this week's deal as merely a consolation prize for both companies in the wake of Google's YouTube acquisition.
Google's $1.65 billion acquisition of YouTube may be overshadowing Blinkx's news, but the small company has high hopes for its rich media search technology.
Instead of a cut of advertising revenue, Microsoft has agreed to pay Blinkx an outright licensing fee based on how much use visitors to Microsoft Web sites make of the Blinkx search system, Chandratillake said.
"It could mean from zero to millions of dollars," Chandratillake said of the potential value of the Microsoft deal to Blinkx. Last month, Blinkx also signed a deal to power the video search of broadband entertainment site Lycos.
Unlike YouTube or Google, Blinkx stores search information on videos, but not the videos themselves, meaning that computer costs are kept low. "It makes for cheaper legal bills," he quips, referring to copyright issues raised by storing video.
Founded in early 2004, the 27-employee company is self-funded with the help of several angel investors, Chandratillake said. It has taken $12 million to $13 million and spent three-quarters of that amount. Its costs are low and revenues are now beginning to flow.
“Becoming cash-flow positive is not our biggest single goal,” Chandratillake said, adding: “I get plenty of VC (venture-capital) offers.”