This article was published on April 29, 2011

SocialCam will only settle for replacing your video camera

SocialCam will only settle for replacing your video camera
Matthew Panzarino
Story by

Matthew Panzarino

Matthew Panzarino was Managing Editor at TNW. He's no longer with the company, but you can follow him on Twitter. Matthew Panzarino was Managing Editor at TNW. He's no longer with the company, but you can follow him on Twitter.

The video sharing app market is exploding right now. Partially as a result of cameras getting better in integrated devices like iPhones and Android devices and, as Justin.TV’s Micheal Seibel pointed out to me, the puzzling closure of casual camcorder company Flip.

People are turning to their phones to shoot video more than ever before. SocialCam was designed specifically to cater to those people that use their smartphones like a camcorder. The app is simple and minimally featured for now, aimed at replacing the camera app entirely for shooting video.

If this were a year ago, that would probably be enough to warrant it’s existence on the App Store or Android Market. But now people don’t just want to shoot video, they want to share it instantly with friends on Facebook and Twitter and wherever else they post stuff.

That’s why it’s imperative that any app that shoots video on a mobile device make it as easy to share it as it is to shoot it.

We covered SocialCam’s launch previously on TNW but I had the chance to talk to Seibold a bit about what sets SocialCam apart from the competition.

For Justin.TV the motivation to build an app that made it incredibly easy to share video after it was shot came from analyzing the stats of their live streaming app. They found that people used the app more to share video after it was shot than to broadcast live. So, like The Kinks, they decided to give the people what they want.

With SocialCam, you pop open the app to be greeted by a large shoot button that lets you grab video quickly. You also see your feed of videos, either yours or those of your friends. In a unique move, SocialCam shows you not just a single preview frame of video but a preview split into four quadrants that sample various frames in the video.

This wasn’t a random decision but one reached after considerable trial and error including one unfortunate version that just grabbed the first frame of the video for a preview. There were a lot of fairly uninteresting thumbnails in those feeds.

In fact, those four frames are carefully grabbed by code written into SocialCam that seeks out faces in the video, prioritizing those moments with people, presumably your friends, in them. This leads to a stream of videos that give you a far better idea of what’s contained within and that are more enticing for you to tap on and watch.

An extensive suite of sharing options rounds out the SocialCam video flow. Facebook and Twitter are there but also less common options like Posterous, Tumblr and, surprisingly, Dropbox. The Dropbox option is used to store a full res version of the videos you shoot in the cloud. SocialCam actually produces three resolutions of the video that it can use appropriately to share via the various services.

The app is also incredibly fast. The video begins uploading to Justin.TV’s servers the moment that you begin shooting it. This allows you to finish the clip and begin sharing it nearly instantaneously. Seibel says that this behavior is the result of the considerable experience that  Justin.TV has in this area, having shared over 60 million hours of video through their network.

Although you currently log in to SocialCam via your Facebook account, Seibel says that he feels that “logging in at all is silly” and that they’re currently developing a way for people to use the app without logging in at all.

I must confess this intruques me deeply as I hate logging in to anything on my phone, it’s annoying. No details on how this process will work yet but Seibel said he’ll share details when he can.

Justin.TV has a massive barrier to overcome if it hopes to replace it’s biggest competitors, which Seibel considers to be ‘the standard camera app’ and ‘still photos’. But Justin.TV has the 30 million users of their video network to leverage and with more people looking to the devices that they already have in their pockets for easy ways to shoot and share video, the opportunity is there.

You can grab SocialCam on the App Store or Android Market free.

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