PopScreen has officially launched their viral video prediction tool, which they’re calling “On Our Radar.”  You may remember we wrote about this new feature back in June when we were afforded a sneak peak (thanks again, PopScreen!).  Well, now it’s out in the wild for all to use… kind of.

The home page design of PopScreen.com was overhauled several weeks ago, leaving a top-to-bottom stream of the most popular videos at the moment (as determined by the behavior of PopScreen users).  There’s a toggle/tab next to the “Popular Now” button that reads “On Our Radar,” and that’s where the predictive elements come into play.

The “Popular Now” section is like Bitly.tv.  “On Our Radar” is sort of the Nostradamus version of Bitly.tv.  Not “what’s popular now,” but “what will be popular tomorrow.”

To determine what videos are likely to go viral, the company uses a proprietary algorithm based on data about “popped” (saved) videos as well as social behavior information such as voting and sharing.

Perhaps most interesting to me is the news that PopScreen plans to roll-out syndication options for this predictive data, for use with various partners in the publishing and news world.

Now, I have to tell you—and I hate doing it—that if you go to PopScreen.com right now and click on the “On Our Radar” option, it doesn’t work.  It says, “Sorry, not quite ready for prime time (yet).”  And that’s disappointing.  I tried it both logged in and logged out, and it wasn’t working in either case.  Here’s a screenshot:

If you hadn’t picked up on it from my previous articles, I love PopScreen and I use their service regularly.  But I feel compelled to point out that they probably should have waited for the predictive engine to be “ready for prime time” before rolling out a press release.  Why announce a new service that doesn’t actually work yet?  To build buzz?  At first I thought maybe it just wasn’t working for Firefox, so I tried other browsers as well, only to find that it’s simply not ready yet.  That’s a shame.

To be fair, I don’t know that PopScreen issued a press release on this.  In fact, all I see are a TechCrunch article and a BusinessWire article both published yesterday.  I’m not sure why TechCrunch would write about a new service from PopScreen unless they had been told by the company that there was a new service worth writing about… and that it was live and ready to go.  And the BusinessWire article reads like a press release written by PopScreen.

Was the predictive engine working yesterday but then taken off line for some reason?  Or… is this an intentional strategy?  Some kind of soft roll-out?  I can’t be sure.  But TechCrunch coverage is pretty huge for web companies, and I would think it might be a waste of that exposure to drive all those pageviews to a nonfunctional feature.

Again, don’t get me wrong.  I think PopScreen is a fantastic service.  I think the On Our Radar section is going to be very cool to play around with, particularly for some of my regular columns on viral videos.  The core PopScreen service is only going to be enhanced by the new predictive engine.  But until we can see it in action, it’s going to be impossible to tell how good a predictor it can actually be.   I would expect that will happen very, very soon, and I will try to get more information on that for you so you’ll know when you can go check it out.

UPDATE: Since the writing of this article, I have received an email from PopScreen that went out to all users, stating that the new predictive element of their website will go live today.  So it appears that there was an intention to roll out the live service in conjunction with the announcements.  Perhaps TechCrunch and BusinessWire (and now ReelSEO) simply ran the notice a tad early?  It’s still not working, as of this update, but I expect it to be live sometime later today, and I wanted to make sure you all knew that.

UPDATE II:  In further email conversation with PopScreen, I have learned that it will, indeed, be another 6-8 weeks before the On Our Radar section goes live.  They want it to be as perfect as it can be before launching.  The confusion stems from the announcement’s use of words like “prediction tool,” which to me hints at the On Our Radar section.  Because the “Popular Now” section is what’s… popular now… not in the future.  But the fine people at PopScreen have explained that the Popular Now section is still showing videos that aren’t technically “viral” yet.  They’re heating up, so to speak, but not all the way hot yet.  So, in PopScreen’s view, even the Popular Now section is predictive.  Everyone got  that now?  There will be a quiz.