Vlip offers interactive video feature

Vlip is a new site takes video sharing conversations a step further.

It lets you record a video online with a webcam on your PC, and lets your friends and others respond with their own webcam clips. This is open-ended, so people can keep responding. The responses are threaded together. Moreover, if a registered member sees your video, they can click on the video to talk with you live, over a video call. Vlip’s strength is its simplicity.

No other site offers this. YouTube offers a way to reply to videos, but not a button to have an immediate live video chat with someone.

The video call is good quality, because it is the bread and butter of Vlip’s parent company, Sightspeed. The company, founded in 2001, has offered a free video-chat feature for some time. The Berkeley, Calif. company received $1 million in backing in 2003, and is now trying to ride the video wave by releasing Vlip as a separate product. Vlip launched late last week, but we waited to publish until we’d talked with Chief executive Peter D. Csathy. He wouldn’t say whether the company is profitable, but said traffic growth has been strong.

vlipscreen.bmpThere are some drawbacks to Vlip. Once someone has posted a vlip, they can leave and go do their own thing. You can respond to them with your own clip, but this makes it hard for you to talk with them live — which dampens the appeal of this distinguishing feature of Vlip’s. You also need a webcam to record your clip. If you like replying to videos, many other sites offer that. Flikzor offers something very similar. Grouper, meanwhile, was early to introduce video comments — which gives you more visibility into exactly who has replied to a given video.

Vlip lets users post their vlip recording to any other Web site or blog, and the replies are kept together with the clip — even as it is watched across multiple Web sites. You can email vlips too too. You don’t need a Webcam to watch the vlips.

The company’s backing is from Roda Group, which led the finance round, with participation from BR Ventures, Cornell University’s venture capital fund.

The company hopes to make money from advertising, but also from driving traffic to Sightspeed’s video chat features. Members can pay for premium features, such as multi-party video conferencing, and unlimited storage of video mail. The company is particularly well placed, now that many PCs and other devices are being released with webcams built in. Csathy says he’s striking deals with multiple players, from chip-maker AMD to Creative Labs.