Sharing videos on the Web is easy: Upload to YouTube or Facebook, send out a link. Sharing videos on mobile phones is still a pain. The iPhone tries to make it easier by letting you upload directly to YouTube, but what if you want to share a video privately? Sending videos between phones is cumbersome. A new service that just launched in beta called Thwapr seeks to solve this problem by letting you simply uploading videos from your phone to the Web and then texting or emailing a link to your friends.
Thwapr already works with 165 phones, from iPhones and Androids to Blackberries and Samsungs. After you sign up, you can email your photos or videos to Thwapr, and then share them from there to any mobile phone that supports links in text messages. As you add contacts to Thwapr, you can select them by name. The recipients get a text message with a link which opens up their mobile browser and takes them to Thwapr’s mobile website. They can see the shared photo or video and “Thwap” back a response, creating a conversation around the image. Each mobile video needs to be 20 MB or less for now.
Videos are delivered a variety of ways based on the type of phone the viewer is using. On the iPhone, they come as progressive downloads which open up in the Quicktime player. Other phones support streaming video. Older Blaackberries would get the video as a file download, and Thwapr can even deliver videos as rough animated gif images for phones which can’t handle anything else. Thwapr’s CTO Eric Hoffert worked on the original Quicktime team at Apple, as did COO Duncan Kennedy. Now they want to open up new video experiences on mobile phones.
Thwapr is meant for private sharing, but a public sharing option is in the works. And while Thwapr is launching via the mobile browser, the company is putting the finishing touches on an iPhone app, and has plans for Android, Blackberry, and other apps as well. the apps will remove the two-step process of having to send a video or photo via email and then open up the browser to manage to sharing options. The apps will also tie in directly to your phone’s address book, and take advantage of notifications.
Thwapr is really built for video. Hoffert considers it to be a type of image communications system which is an improvement on MMS. “With MMS,” he says, “the experience ends with the delivery of the picture. With Thwapr, we are trying to show that the experience begins with the delivery of the picture.” The picture or video is supposed to spark a conversation. Other startups, such as Tiny Pictures (which was acquired by Shutterfly), have followed this road before through dedicated apps. Perhaps Thwapr will have more luck taking an open Web approach.
The company was founded in 2007, and is funded with more than $2 million from angel investors. Thwapr plans to eventually charge for premium accounts (more storage, more Thwaps/month), geo-targeted mobile display or video ads, and possible sponsored Thwaps for movie trailers, music videos, and brand advertising.