If you’re a big fan and user of content delivery services like Flipboard, Zite and others, then you’ll be interested to know that Singapore-based firm Anideo has introduced Denso 2.0, a new version of its mobile video app.
The app has been loosely described as ‘Flipboard for video’, but it’s a comparison that doesn’t do Denso justice, as the app goes far beyond this. More than just delivering video, Denso is an aggregator that aims to revolutionise the way we watch and interact with video content on a mobile device.
“The app is meant for discovery,” says Anideo’s Andrew Solimine. “Our goal is to build the kind of service that allows you to check out viral videos shared by your friends, or relating to topics that interest you, when you’re lying in bed.”
Anything that allows us to stay in bed is the kind of service that we can appreciate here at The Next Web, so we spoke to Solimine and his partner Arun Thampi, both of whom explained more about the new version of Denso.
Available for free for Android and iOS, Denso delivers content from established channels and a user’s own social streams, in a similar way to Flipboard’s cover stories feature (oops, another comparison…)
The first place to start is its list of channels, which is a pretty comprehensive feature in itself. Denso lists more than 25 different channels of content, which vary from tech to style, politics, comedy, sports and more.
There’s probably something for everyone but, as this is a tech blog, we’ve gone to town on the tech list, which contains the who’s-who of the space and all of their content in one convenient place.
The videos for each channel are taken from publicly available sources, predominantly YouTube and VEVO. Yet the interface and ease of navigation — which allows in-channel search — is inherently easier to navigate and consume than either service on the mobile.
To keep up with their favorites, Denso users can subscribe to channels, which are then added to the ‘My Channels’ section for easy access in the future. For now, subscriptions do not transfer over to YouTube or VEVO, meaning you’ll need to subscribe to a channel separately on each service.
Gathering content from social networks
Social streams is a new feature that shipped with Denso 2.0, and — be warned — it is massively addictive and very useful.
Denso serves up video content from Facebook, Twitter, Google Reader and Tumblr once a user has entered their account details and synced the services up to the app.
Synced social networks are shown as channels under ‘My Channels’ and, once entered, they present video content in preview mode using an easy scroll down list.
The content that features here isn’t just mentions of videos, like a YouTube clip, that have been tweeted, share on Facebook etc. Denso cleverly adds videos from articles and links that friends mention on social networks, giving it quite a collection of content – which is nicely updated on the fly, using a ‘x new videos’ mention bar which pulls down to refresh.
The idea of getting all your video content from Twitter, Facebook and others in one place is a pretty compelling one. Indeed, this alone is, in our opinion, enough of plus to make the app worth using, but that’s leaving aside its (many) other features.
Sharing to social networks
As well as bringing you video content from social networks, Denso allows you to share content to Twitter or Facebook using a very simple thumbs-up endorsement. It’s so easy to do that you’ll have to remind yourself to go easy…else the bad habits from Facebook’s ‘click to Like’ culture will inundate your followers with videos.
Once Facebook or Twitter sharing has been enabled (under the ‘Settings’ tab) the thumbs-up button allows instant sharing. That’s in addition to the standard sharing options which allow longer, customisable comment to go out with the link, as well as a share-by-email option.
Because channels and social networks just aren’t enough(!), Denso 2.0 introduces a trending videos section.
Thampi explains that the trending algorithm uses a number of variables — including views, social shares and more — to deliver a fresh selection of what’s hot on the service. It remains an ongoing pursuit as the guys at Anideo are frequently tweaking the code as they look to build it into another appealing channel to discover content.
Finally, the trends can come to you too. When logged into it, the app will ping reminders as and when new trending content is picked up, giving you the chance to discover yet more video and distract you from what you’re really supposed to be doing…which is not watching a Lego Space Shuttle launch, alas.
Watch later and download
Denso integrates with a number of popular ‘read later’ services, including Evernote, Instapaper and Readability (the latter of which is a very cool mashup). This allow users to easily add content to their most-used bookmarking services direct from the app, perhaps to store an interesting video for reference or watch it later.
The app also has its own setting for this purpose, and it adds videos into the ‘Watch Later’ section for easy access in the future. Each video has a small ‘watch later’ icon, which sits to the left of the thumbs up while the content is playing, one click and it’s saved.
This is pretty handy if you happen to be using Denso when out and about — it’s great for killing time — and are either looking to watch it again later, or would prefer to watch it using a more stable WiFi connection.
On that note, Anideo has put time into ensuring that video playback is optimised based on the device’s Internet connection. So, if you’re out and about on a mobile network, playback will (most likely) be set to a lower quality to optimize the experience, whereas HD quality (when supported by the content) will play when you’re on WiFi.
There is another option for saving content that allows users to download clips direct to their device. However, downloading is dependent on the video itself allowing it, which content from YouTube doesn’t permit.
The team has killed off its homespun bookmarklet that used to feature on previous versions of Denso. Explaining the move, Solimine says that they are not in the business of reinventing what’s already popular and want to give users options that suit them: ”We want people to use the bookmarklets that they already have”.
Right now, Denso is a completely ad-free service, and that’s how Solimine and Thampi would like things to remain. Content providers are able to add ads to their videos but that’s an almost acceptable situation and it helps keep the apps free of ads popping up at users.
Going forward, Solimine admits that the company is interested in helping bring premium brands and, particularly, semi-pro content to the service. The prospect of paid-for channels and content, which could help Anideo draw revenue, is one possibility, however it is not a focus right now.
The guys at Anideo are very proud of the feedback that they’ve had for Denso, which they teasingly reveal includes very positive comments from “an Internet celebrity”, though they disappointingly refuse to name their star fan. They do share an interesting story from one new user though, who wrote to them after the app has made him forget to eat, such was his addiction.
Although Denso 2.0 has only just dropped, Thampi and Solimine reveal that they are planning to focus on enhancing two of the apps key appeals; personalization and discovery.
Among the future aims, Solimine outlines that they are looking to replicate a lot of YouTube’s native functionality, such as sign-up, subscribing to channels, building playlists and other features. Future versions of Denso could include a number of advanced YouTube features, aimed at giving an even more social and interactive experience.
Away from mobile, the company is currently awaiting Facebook’s approval to become an Open Graph partner. Thampi and Solimine admit that it has been a frustrating experience, with all communication coming one way from Facebook, but the potential of an Open Graph app is significant.
We’ve seen how other content apps have seen their usage rock thanks to Open Graph and Anideo will be hoping that this fate awaits Denso too.
By the way, you’re probably indirectly more familiar of Anideo than you might believe. Not only do the firm’s investors include a certain Eduardo Saverin but Thampi is the man who discovered that Path was uploading user address books to its app. His efforts sparked a revolution in the way that Apple grants apps access to user data.
As if that wasn’t impressive enough, we recently wrote about Journey, a read-only Mac app for Path, which the talented guys at Anideo have also built.
However it is Denso that is their main product and its latest version is one that is definitely worth trying out if own an iOS or Android device. Just don’t blame us if it causes you to forget to eat or sleep, you’ve been warned.