by Juan Carlos Perez, IDG News Service
After months of rumors and speculation, Google finally made its entry
into video search this week. Its offering has received mixed reviews,
an atypical reaction, considering that the company's new services are
normally greeted with enthusiasm.
Consensus among industry observers is that Google's offering is quite
limited in scope and functionality, compared with similar competing
free consumer services from players such as Yahoo, America Online, and
Blinkx. However, pundits also point out that the Google offering is,
within its narrow scope, useful and that the company is likely to
improve and expand it quickly.
"This is interesting but not earth-shattering compared to what else is
already out there," says Gary Price, news editor of
SearchEngineWatch.com and editor of ResourceShelf.com. "However, it's
important to say that Google works fast and that what's available on
Monday could be different by Tuesday."
Google's video search for now doesn't actually deliver video content,
and it's limited to some television shows. Google delivers transcript
excerpts from the TV shows it tracks, along with still photos from the
video broadcasts, as well other complementary information about the
programs. Google obtains the transcripts from the broadcasts'
"We are working with content owners to improve this service by
providing additional enhancements such as playback," says Larry Page,
Google's co-founder and president of products, in the press release
announcing the service.
AOL's Singingfish multimedia search engine has been indexing video and
audio content from the Web at large for several years, and it serves
up video and audio clips. Late last year, Yahoo came out with its
search service, which is still in test mode and which also offers
actual video clips found on the Web. Meanwhile, Blinkx last year
rolled out its Blinkx TV service, which indexes content from a number
of television and radio stations and makes clips available for
playback as well. There are other companies that, for a fee, will
offer even more robust and timely TV content search services. These
include Critical Mention and ShadowTV.
Price was surprised Google didn't deliver a video search service along
the lines of what smaller competitor Blinkx is offering. "Google is
known for throwing things out there [in test mode], but usually when
they do, it's something no one else is doing or it's something that
takes to another level" a service others are already offering, Price
says. "In my opinion, this does neither."
Allen Weiner, a Gartner analyst, also isn't too impressed with the
service, but says Google's video search debut is a clear sign that
this emerging and important area of Internet search is gathering
"The Google service is somewhat of a placeholder because I can't
believe this will be the method and technology they will use down the
road to do this. It's just not powerful enough," Weiner says. "But
Google's entry is the big sign that video is coming to the Web, and
that it's no longer off in the distance. It's this year. More than
anything else, this announcement is interesting because it shows where
the market is headed."
Meanwhile, Joe Wilcox, a Jupiter Research analyst, says the Google
service as it is today could be very useful for researchers by letting
them track down what has been said about specific topics in different
TV programs. Moreover, while Google will probably serve up video clips
eventually, the transcript data it provides today could be ideal for
searches conducted from mobile devices, Wilcox says.
Plus, it shouldn't be surprising to see Google enter into video search
via text search, Wilcox says. "Google's mainstay, what it does very
well, is text search. It makes a lot of sense to me that Google would
leverage its core strength in text search to go into this new area,
before moving into providing video clips," Wilcox says.
Users have been leaving an assortment of cheers and jeers for the
Google video search in the Google Labs Video discussion forum. "A
great idea, and a great way to catch things that you missed. Good
work," reads a recent entry. At the other end of the spectrum, a user
complains about not having access to video clips: "Why launch it
though if it doesn't do what it's supposed to do? Like saying I have
this great Web site, go look, and then you have a blank page."
Increasingly, consumers are becoming more and more comfortable and
familiar with video on the Web, and a logical consequence is that they
start using search engines to actively seek video content, says Su Li
Walker, a Yankee Group analyst. "It's a natural step for consumer
search," she says.
In 26 percent of U.S. households with Internet access, the PC was used
to watch videos either on the Web or offline from a DVD, a Yankee
Group survey conducted in last year's third quarter found, Walker
says. That is up from 18 percent in 2003. A separate Yankee Group
study from last year's second quarter found that in 12.1 percent of
U.S. households with Internet access, video was viewed online and that
in 6.40 percent of households video was downloaded to a PC, Walker
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