Klip: iPhone Video Sharing Refined to A High Art

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Vudu, a dying streaming-video company that Rossmann turned around and sold to Walmart in 2010.

After Vudu, Rossmann started looking for his next startup concept. “The way ideas come, it’s a very non-linear thing,” he says. “You walk around and think about things that would be fun and interesting, and some ideas look better every day, and some look worse, and some just keep coming back.”

One of the things that kept coming back, for Rossmann, was the advent of mobile video. “When I was watching TV news, the first thing people were doing, whether they were being bombed in Libya or suffering through an earthquake in Japan, was holding up their phone to record the scene. We are chronicling our whole lives, from the dumb and the useless to the historical events. So I thought, this is very big. And I kept asking, how can we organize it? How can we help users connect to things they are interested in? How can take mobility super seriously, forget what I know about PCs and the Web and make this a fluid, rewarding, engaging experience?”

Klip’s answer is a clean, streamlined app that uses some nifty software tricks to squeeze a lot of capabilities into a pared-down interface. When you open Klip, you see a big red Record button. The main idea is to get you to start shooting and sharing videos right away, which you can do that using the iPhone’s built-in camera, plus a simple editing bar that lets you select which portion of a video to upload. (There’s a 1-minute length limit on each video, but you can upload as many as you want.)

But that part is pretty much like all the other video sharing apps. It’s really the browsing and discovery tools that make Klip different. On the app’s front page you see a white field with an infinitely scrolling selection of videos uploaded by other users; there are three built-in tabs, for the latest clips, the most popular clips, and clips from the people you follow. (If you choose to follow specific hashtags, those will appear as tabs too—more on that in a moment.)

At first, you may think the Klip screen is just showing you a bunch of static thumbnails. But if you swipe your finger along the bottom of each thumbnail, you discover that they’re actually tiny windows for high-speed scrubbing—that is, controlled fast-forwarding or rewinding. (It’s the video equivalent of scrolling through a long Web page.) Shake your iPhone, and all the clips on the page start scrubbing at once. The idea behind scrubbing is to give you a way to quickly preview each clip, so that you can decide whether to watch the whole thing. “We allow you to browse videos at the speed of your finger,” says Rossmann. “It changes the rules completely.”

If you decide you do want watch a full video, it starts playing almost instantly, without the dreaded “buffering” wait. “If you’re browsing 20 videos and you have to wait 10 seconds for each one of them to start, that’s a lot to ask,” Rossmann says. “It took a lot of research, but we tried to get to instant play.” Also banished: the pausing and sputtering that plagues people watching video over a spotty wireless connection. Klip uses a technique called … Next Page »

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Wade Roush is a freelance science and technology journalist and the producer and host of the podcast Soonish. Follow @soonishpodcast

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