Synchtube Helps You Experience YouTube Videos With Friends

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How do you normally share YouTube videos with friends?  Via email?  Over instant message?  On Facebook?  Pony Express?

No matter what method you’re used to, odds are that it’s a relatively one-sided affair.  You send a video, then you wait for a response… sometimes days.  Imagine if you could share that video with a buddy in real time, watching and commenting on it at the same time.

Well, now you can thanks to a new service called SynchTube.

SynchTube is, at its core, a chat application that happens to also provide a way to embed your current favorite video.   And it’s pretty nifty.  Simply start with a URL for your latest favorite YouTube link, and SynchTube does the rest—it creates a special video “room”, completely with a unique URL.  You can send the link to your new viewing room to up to three friends, who can join the room and see the video in question.

There’s a chat application that runs next to the video, to allow for real-time commenting and the sharing of reactions.  And there’s even a personalized progress meter for each user in the room, showing you where that user is in the video’s stream.

It’s worth pointing out that YouTube has a couple of similar services–YouTube Streams and YouTube RealTime Sharing.  You’ll need a YouTube account to start a Stream, though, or participate in any way with RealTime Sharing (you’ll actually need a RealTime toolbar as well), but both services have the same goal as SynchTube–helping you share and connect with friends and strangers around a particular video.   There are some features that are unique to SynchTube, such as the ability to see exactly where other users are in the video’s time line.

This is one of those ideas that’s just so perfect that it almost doesn’t immediately make sense.  Think about what makes a video go viral… it’s the sharing by one person to another.  And why do people share videos with friends?  Is it because they’re good-hearted, and they just want their friends to have a laugh?  Maybe.

But isn’t there something inherent in sharing viral content that suggests a desire to see, hear, or read about their reaction to it?  I know in my office, most of my coworkers will get out of their chair and come stand at your desk if you don’t let them know quickly enough what you thought of the hilarious video they just sent you.

Getting the reaction—and often getting credit for bringing the video to their attention—is half the impetus behind sharing a video to begin with.  Not to mention being “together” for the experience itself.  How many of you have ever gone to a favorite movie a second time just to see it with your friends?

And keeping with the movie analogy, how much better is it to watch a film with a friend than it is to email a friend and say, “You should see this movie!”?  With no scientific basis whatsoever, I will gladly state that I think the reaction to a shared video is a huge part of what drives us to share in the first place.

SynchTube allows you to get that reaction in real time, not to mention the fact that it allows you to share and react with more than one friend at a time.  It takes viral videos from a static entity and turns them into an experience.

There are some hurdles, of course, if SynchTube hopes to catch on.  First, it’s not for everyone.  I don’t even want to think about the kind of conversation I would have if I were asked to explain this service to my parents.  It’s definitely a tool for the tech-savvy crowd… at least, it is right now—but Twitter was the same way when it started, if you’ll remember.

Second, it’s still in beta, which almost guarantees a somewhat buggy experience for early adopters.  Third, there are those similar services from YouTube itself that may one day far outshine what SynchTube is able to do.

Finally, there’s the pesky problem of making sure your invited friends are actually at their computer, ready and willing to stop what they’re doing to watch a video with you.  This is somewhat more difficult that you might think.  In my limited testing, I have sadly encountered a few rooms occupied by only myself.  In those instances, I can only assume my friends were too busy or not available at the time of my invite.

I’m perfectly willing to be wrong about this, but I have a feeling this service—or one like it—will become a much more widely used method of sharing videos in the future.  The distribution of viral content has never been a problem.  We have email, IM, social sites, and lots of other ways to spread our favorite videos.  But the reaction—that returning piece of the interaction—has long been either absent or severely delayed. Who knows… maybe when we all figure out how Google Wave is supposed to be used, it will make this kind of thing obsolete.  But for now, I’m excited about new services that help people connect using video in a more personal and intimate way.

This is the kind of service that could continue to improve and shape the way “viral” happens.  It’s already revolutionized my somewhat small office of nine people.  How about you?  Is SynchTube a service you can see yourself using?  What impact might this service have on a video’s ability to go viral?


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