Lycos adds to Net video efforts with playlist service

Set to go after a portion of the popular online video and social networking spaces, Lycos Inc. on Thursday launched a service that lets users create video playlists composed of footage from several Web sites.

Users of the service, called Lycos Mix, will be able to select video from YouTube, Google Video and MySpace to create playlists. The free service, currently in beta testing, uses Lycos technology that allows both real-time chat and permanent comments.

Lycos Mix users will create their playlists by going to the three video sites and selecting clips, then linking them to the playlist. Lycos has also compiled its own playlists for categories such as arts, comedy, food and music. Lycos internally tested Mix, and in the process, created the site's first 1,000 playlists, said Lycos product manager Eric Austrew.

The service lets participants make their playlists public, which allows anyone to add a video to the list. If they make the lists private, only the playlist creator can add videos. A moderated option allows anyone to submit videos but gives the playlist owner posting authority.

Within about two months, Lycos hopes to announce studio partnerships that will allow the service to offer licensed content, said Chief Operating Officer Brian Kalinowski.

Mix isn't Lycos' first foray into Internet social networking, which centers on users with shared interests coming together to view, post and experience content. In November 2006, the company launched Lycos Cinema, which permits users to simultaneously watch and chat about feature films provided by Lycos partners.

Kalinowski sees the distinction between the services in Mix's emphasis on using video from other Web sites, while Cinema users pick from static content.

The Web video trend is hot, as evidenced by Google Inc.'s $1.65 billion purchase of YouTube Inc. last October, but copyright issues are still causing concern. Google's latest intellectual property spat occurred last week when Viacom International Inc. demanded that 100,000 of its clips be removed from the site. Google said it complied with the request.

To circumvent this issue, Lycos Mix embeds the other Web sites' players on its site. This allows Mix to stream the videos instead of storing them on Lycos' servers. The other sites are responsible for copyright issues, since they're hosting the content, Kalinowski said.

Kalinowski sees Lycos' service as different from other social networking sites because it draws attention to specific content rather than a user profile, he said. The service's ability to aggregate content from assorted video Web sites also differentiates Lycos' offering, Austrew said.

"You can only talk about what is on YouTube on YouTube; you can only talk about what is on MySpace on MySpace," Kalinowski added.

Mix will display banner ads and possibly search-based ads, Kalinowski said. As the user base grows, Lycos may also play video ads before and after the clips.

YouTube and the other video sites will benefit from Mix, because it offers another way to market and distribute their content and services, Kalinowski said.

Although the online video market is arguably quite crowded, with players such as AOL Video and Yahoo Video, as well as MySpace, YouTube and Google Video, Kalinowski believes Mix is entering the scene at the appropriate moment. Lycos is a leader in the youth market, he said, and this is a good time to leverage that advantage.

Copyright © 2007 IDG Communications, Inc.

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