WHAT: A way to share video clips between friends.
WHEN: Founded the beginning of 2006
WHERE: A U.S. company with offices in New York and Israel
HOW: Go to the Vringo website and sign up. They’ll ask for your mobile number, and then send you a clickable link. The buddy list, which requires a nickname and phone number, can be done on the website or mobile phone.
WHY: Why send the ringtone when you can send the music video?
Founded with two rounds of VC money and based on 26 patents pending, Vringo is based on the idea that friends send friends video. More specifically, “buddies” on Vringo can send ring-forward and ring-back clips. “Mobile phones have been traditionally designed so that a phone shuts down all applications when a call comes in,” notes Andrew Perlman. ” With Vringo, you see a clip that your friend has chosen for you.” That clip could be user-generated or licensed content; so far Vringo has over 1,000 clips-to-license from Discovery Channel, Universal Music Group, GoTV, Classic Media and others.
For user-generated clips, the user can record a Vringo from the Vringo application (“Record Vringo”), which automatically turns on the phone’s camera. A finished clip can be immediately uploaded and shared with “buddies” in the Vringo community.
Why haven’t video ringtones taken off in the past? “If you think about audio versus video, people have a tolerance of hearing audio over and over again but video gets tired more quickly,” says Perlman. “You can’t shuffle and see something fresh. Think about merging that idea with the best “recommender” on the planet — your friend. With Vringo, you’re shuffling based on the video your friend sent. It really becomes a community that’s socializing around video ringtones.”
Social networking is key to the Vringo business model. “We’re working our way more deeply into social networks,” says Perlman. “We started specing out our Facebook application, but we’ve tapped into other communities. We think a lot of the content will be user-generated, so we’ve partnered with communities such as Meez, an avatar site with 4 million registered users, that you can import to Vringo. People are already using avatars as a digital signature. We’re focusing on the way on mobile it would be natural to share an avatar.”
The Meez avatars move—they can wave and run—and the user personalizes them, choosing skin tone, features, attire. “It’s a phenomenon and a little bit addictive,” Perlman says. “The avatar is a discrete experience, but it’s a platform fo sharing.”
In the early beta stage, Vringo has “multiple thousands” of users,” says Perlman. What tweaks are they still working on? “We’re fixing it to make it easier,” he says. “The key is really simplicity and ease of use. The thing we really really think we’re good at but want to further improve is to make it as viral as possible. We’re focusing on elements of community and inviting friends based on the contact list on your phone.”
Right now, Vringo is free to users. For the future, Perlman sees the financial model as two-fold: the a la carte purchase of clips in the short-term, with “huge promise” in the ad-funded model down the road. That could be a range from a one- or two-second pre-roll, banner ads or even branded content. “Like BMW films, I think about a 20-second piece of branded content that’s being shared between friends,” says Perlman. “If we get critical mass, that’ll become a real part of our business. We’ve been approached by ad agencies, but this is a long-lead thing.
Vringo is expected to launch formally with at least one mobile carrier before the end of 2008 Q1.
Currently, any Internet-enabled phone can take advantage of Vringo, accessing it via the mobile browser where they cnan view, download and send Vringo videotones. But the full-featured Vringo–which includes installed client, automatic video ringtones and real-time Vringo synchronization, is only available on the following phones.
|Moto Q (8)|
Motorola V3xx, V6, K3
Nokia N75, E62, 6110, 5500, 5700
What kind of network do I need to use Vringo?
You need a network that offers data (most of them do these days) and with reasonably good coverage. Vringo works best in networks with advanced data services and broadband-like service. This kind of service is frequently called 3G.
Right now, to be able to experience VringBack you must be on a GSM network (like Cingular or T-Mobile). We’re working on ways to extend this service to all types of networks.
Users on non-GSM networks like Verizon or Sprint can still use Vringo. VringForward will work fine, but you won’t get VringBack.
What kind of plan do I need to use Vringo?
You need to be on a data plan. Vringos are uploaded and downloaded with a data connection. The better your connection and your plan, the better the whole thing works.
Where can I get Vringo?
For the length of the private Beta period, you can get Vringo from the Vringo.com website. As we expand the Beta you’ll be able to get it from a variety of software vendors. Don’t worry, it’ll still be free.