Watchitoo Beta-Launches Platform for Synchronized Social Viewing

An Israeli company called Watchitoo announced Monday that it is beginning a private beta of a service that it says will allow users to view videos and other content together from their individual PC's while communicating with one another in real time. "I was inspired to create Watchitoo after watching my son consume media online and saw an opportunity to connect with him there," Watchitoo founder and CEO, Rony Zarom, said in a prepared statement. "I found that there wasn't an efficient way for people to communicate in real time while sharing or viewing content, only to perform singular tasks independently. Watchitoo really enables friends, families, even new contacts to converse while they view videos, listen to music, look at photos and much more."

According to Watchitoo, its service seeks to bring broadband video content, social networks and instant messaging together, in order to create a portal that will allow users to draw content from content-sharing sites such as YouTube, or upload their own content, and then view it simultaneously with other users, build a social network around it, and engage in real-time conversation with other users either via text or Web cam. "Watchitoo is a natural next step in the evolution of social media platforms," Zarom continued. "It takes the most popular uses of the Internet and combines them, allowing for a real-time collaboration between parties, marrying the experience of being together and being online."

The company bills its platform as ideally suited for such applications as "friends engaging over music, families engaging over family photos, or even educators engaging over documents." It says that users have "complete control" over profiles that they can create for free on its portal site, and that, once logged in, they can create an avatar for themselves, search for and add friends, leave status messages, instant-message one another, and engage in video chat by dropping a friend's avatar image into a video chat window. Users can use pre-existing content (viewing of YouTube, Photobucket and Yahoo Images content is currently supported) or upload their own in order to create what the company dubs a "show." They can create up to four shows, the company says, and within each show load up to 100 images or videos. They can define their shows as "public" (i.e. available to anyone to view) or "private" (i.e. only viewable via a private invitation). Friends who have been invited to view a show do not have to be Watchitoo users, the company says, nor do they have to register in order to view it: instead, they click on a link to go directly to the content that is being shared with them. Once a group of users has assembled to watch a show, the user who created the show starts it and the users watch it together, share comments and see one another's reactions through their Web cam feeds. The user who created the show also has the option of sharing control of it (e.g. the ability to decide the order in which videos or photos are displayed) with the other users.

Watchitoo claims to have patent-pending technology that "overcomes the time and space limitation that currently exists on the Internet by hosting all content on an independent server." This, it says, means that any user, regardless of their connection or available resources, can participate in its platform's social viewing without their experience being interrupted by skipping or buffering. Watchitoo says that it plans to open up its new portal to the public next month.