December 20, 2004, 10:12 AM — Internet search providers are reacting to users' rising interest in finding video content on the Web, while acknowledging that there are steep challenges that need to be overcome.
This week, Yahoo Inc. and Blinkx both launched video search services, while earlier this month America Online Inc. (AOL) revamped its Singingfish multimedia search engine to make it more attractive and easier for users.
Video content demand and availability have both grown as a direct result of the rise of broadband Internet connections. "More than half of consumers watching videos online have broadband. Broadband adoption is reaching critical mass in the U.S.," said Joe Wilcox, a Jupiter Research analyst.
As a result, users are turning more and more to search engines to look for video content, and finding that general Web search services just don't deliver good enough results. "It's very difficult to find streaming content through traditional search engines, and more and more consumers are interested in this type of content," Wilcox said.
This dissatisfaction with general Web search engines is probably one big reason why AOL's multimedia search site Singingfish (www.singingfish.com) saw its site's usage explode from several thousand queries per day in 2003 to over 700,000 queries per day currently, even when the site wasn't designed to attract mass market users. Unlike the Yahoo site, which focuses strictly on video, Singingfish also indexes audio files.
The usage spike led AOL to revamp the site's interface and, starting this month, for the first time to actively try to make it attractive to mass market users, Karen Howe, Singingfish's vice president and general manager, told IDG News Service in early December. Previously, the site was intended for search providers interested in licensing Singingfish's multimedia search technology, whose users include Microsoft Corp., RealNetworks Inc. and AOL.
Still, challenges abound for search providers that want to index video content.
First, many video files have little or no metadata, while industry-wide there is a lack of metadata standards for video content. Metadata is information about a file, such as its date of creation, size, owner and content description. In the offline world, library cards are examples of metadata.
Even when video files have proper metadata, it is of little value if a user is looking for a specific quote in a news report and has to view an entire clip in order to find the desired snippet.
Also, because video files tend to be very large, requiring a lot of storage space and processing power, they get deleted very often from Web servers, so a search engine may have indexed video files a week ago that today are no longer available.