Our First Taste Of Magma

A few weeks ago Rocketboom founder Andrew Baron gave us a glimpse of his next project: a new video portal with an emphasis on analytics and social interaction, dubbed Mag.ma. But aside from some nifty screen shots, nobody has really gotten a chance to play around with the site until now.

Earlier this evening Baron included us in a small batch of new users invited to try out the site, and we’ve been testing it out for the last few hours. To be clear, this is by no means our final review of the site, as it is very much a work in progress and some of its most key features—which allow people to set up and follow real-time video feeds—haven’t been implemented yet. But even with some missing elements, at the very least, it’s clear that Magma is going to be a great place to kill some time.

In his original post on Magma, Baron outlined three main use cases for the site. The first, and the one most people will be using Magma for, is as a comprehensive guide for what’s currently hot in web video. Open Magma’s homepage and you’re shown a grid of 10 “Must-watch” videos – clips that Magma has deemed to be the hottest on the web, as determined by data from sites like Digg, Reddit, and Twitter. Below this grid, you’ll get an at-a-glance guide to the most popular videos across a dozen different web services, which include everything from YouTube to CollegeHumor. Finally, the very bottom of the site lists some of the clips being shared by other users.

It’s a lot of content to absorb, with over 100 video links on the homepage alone. Fortunately Magma does a good job at laying out the video links so that they don’t become overwhelming. Magma certainly isn’t the first site to try to aggregate what’s hot in web video – in fact, many of its sources like YouTube and Digg also try to do exactly that. But Magma has done a great job taking all of these sources and presenting them in an easily consumable format, which could make it one of the first sites I visit when I’m looking to kill some time.

That said, good design can be easily copied. Fortunately for the company Magma has some other core functionality in the works, but these other main features are still very much in the work-in-progress stage. Its stat tracking, which will allow you to watch in real-time as a clip’s hit count goes up and ‘buzz’ comes in from various social channels, is not yet active. And the social sharing features, which allow you to follow the videos shared by your friends, is still limited if only because there are currently so few people using the site.

Magma’s power comes from the fact that it is a series of real-time, constantly updating video feeds. Each “channel” (YouTube, Digg, Tweetmeme, CollegHumor) changes frequently, with the latest videos pushing the rest down the queue. You can follow any channel like an RSS feed. You can also follow any other member’s collection of video streams. Magma starts with a collection of the most popular video streams and then encourages users to create their own. The number of potential video streams that can be created is virtually limitless. That is why Magma is exciting. Its main design principle centers around discovering and consuming videos via real-time streams.

But these features will be ramping up over the next few weeks, and we’ll be following the site as it matures up to its public release. For the time being, Magma is looking promising – now it just needs to show that it’s more than just a nice looking content aggregator.