Watchitoo lets distant friends watch web videos as if they're in same room

Watchitoo is launching a collaboration site today that lets friends watch YouTube videos, share slide shows, and otherwise collaborate through a common online window.

It lets you see how your friend reacts to the video at the very same instant you react to it. It’s like sitting in a movie and glancing over to see if your friend is laughing at the jokes or not.

The Israeli company is launching a private beta of Watchitoo today. It lets you invite a friend into a live video conference (if both of you have webcams) and then share anything in the window. You can put a link to a YouTube video, and you can both watch it at the same time, for example.

“The key difference is that we have a synchronized environment,” said Rony Zarom, chief executive of Watchitoo. “It’s a step beyond something like Skype.”

You can share slide shows and discuss them live. You can click on a thumbnail picture, and it maximizes to fit in a window. You can invite as many as four other friends to chat in the video conferences at the same time. You can also search for things to share in YouTube, Photobucket and Yahoo Images. More content sources are coming later. You can do web phone calls or conduct webinars that others can subscribe to. In the videos, you can fast forward or rewind them to the spot you want without leaving the Watchitoo site. Since the site is interactive, you could even play a game live with a friend, if Watchitoo decides to develop such content. You can also listen to music or build a social network group around your content.

The company will open up the beta to all comers on June 1. As Zarom mentioned, Watchitoo competes with web-calling services such as Skype as well as collaboration services such as Webex. Other rivals include Paltalk, Clipsync, Meebo and Lycos.

The site is free for now, and users will be able to get premium services in the future. You can share content either publicly or privately. You create your own avatar image, which you can use in video chats if you wish.

Zarom founded the company in January 2007 after he watched his son consume media online and wanted to figure out how to interact with him more.

Zarom supplied his own seed money (via Decima Ventures) after scoring big with a previous startup, Exalink, that sold to Comverse for $550 million in 2000. The company has 15 employees. VentureBeat has 200 passes for the closed beta. The first 200 to click on this link can get one. Watchitoo says it has applied for patents on its technology.

Here’s a link for 200 invites for VentureBeat readers.

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