By BOB TEDESCHI
FOR those tired of navigating hundreds of television channels to find
shows worth watching, the Web sends this message: let us do the
work. Oh, and by the way, a computer screen will do nicely.
A handful of new Internet companies have recently introduced Web sites
that aim to sift through millions of online video clips and instantly
splice them together according to the viewer's stated or implied
tastes. Right now, that includes a fairly meager selection of
mainstream media selections - and, yes, you sometimes have to watch it
through a subpar Internet connection. But more network-quality shows
are coming online, and Webcasting technology is fast improving to the
point where you can now catch glimpses of what TV could look like in
the not-too-distant future.
"You can debate what you should call it, but in the coming world, it's
going to be a user-controlled environment," said Allen Weiner, an
analyst with Gartner, a technology consulting firm. "I watch what I
want, when I want."
The most recent version of this customized Internet TV idea comes from
Blinkx, a San Francisco online search company that plans to activate
MyBlinkx TV today at www.blinkxTV.com. The site is supposed to work
much like a standard search engine, prompting users to type words or
phrases into a search box.
But when the user types in, say, "big wave surfing," instead of
displaying links to Web pages, the site starts rolling a string of
video clips most relevant to that topic. Users can fast-forward,
rewind, pause the video and click a button to save the channel. When
they return to it, the technology refreshes the channel with newer,
more relevant clips.