When you think of all the bandwidth that is consumed in China by video streams and downloads, we can almost place it in the same class as other forms of traditional broadcast or cable media. At work or at internet cafes, you see many young people watching the latest dramas that they missed. They watch episodes of friends to practice their english. They watch online recorded videos of starcraft and warcraft competitions. They watch the latest egao videos created by amateur filmmakers  using a pastiche of old and current movies. They watch foreign television shows and commercials to get a glimpse of the media outside China. Amateur filmmakers and animators load up their portfolios online to get a ready made audience outside the usual distribution cartels that exist. Not only is this market large but its still growing as more and more people come online.

 The love of online vides and video sites may arise from the dissatisfaction that many young people have about the current selection of entertainment and news content today. As many of us living in China can attest, there may be over a hundred channels of cable available but the content all seems the same. The variety show, the talk show, the drama series, the news show, the sports commentary and the comedies all seem very similar to each other in style and format. Syndication means the same content appears on various channels. The lack of original content also means that many shows are in some ways copies of other more popular shows already on the air. Online videos give viewers the variety and edginess lacking in today's modern television lineup.

One of my ex-colleagues started a new company here in Beijing to partake of this new new trend in user generated video content and distribution. Although he based the company in Beijing close to the talent base of bright university students, his real audience is really the global market of online video consumers and enthusiasts.

 Eric Feng started Mojiti in 2006 in order to enable a platform and online toolchest for users to annotate videos with notes, tags, and comments. He's added more and more features in a series of waves, In many ways, Mojiti represents the new breed of Web 2.0 companies starting in China. Some critics complain that Chinese startups simply create a chinese clone of western ideas and applications. Companies like Mojiti and Maxthon attest to the fact that there are some innovative technologies being worked on that go beyond localization of other global products.

 China Web 2.0 has a pretty nice writeup on them:

In Mojiti, you can add annotation linked to a specific time in a video clip, what Mojiti calls Spot, or you can add Spot Ticker as well. A Spot Ticker is a scrollable banner that contains user-created information about a specific video. Both Spot and Spot Tickers are displayed at the bottom of the video screen, and Spot Tickers will show text that changes as the video plays. The service enable you to add your comments, opinions or subtitles to the video clips.

I spoke previously with Eric about his platform and some of the cool and uncool stuff that they can do with their technology. For example, they can probably insert embedded ads into videos which as a viewer I would think to be uncool. However, as a business person or video film maker I would think it is cool so I can actually eat. Other userful things like putting in your own subtitles and even educational notes for user generated lessons for students would be useful but not so interesting (at least for me). However, given the popularity of egao and its deep cultural references and contextual humor, having someone putting in little "nuggets" of information or funny comments would be interesting.

 As Eric himself desribes on his blog:

The other "Pop" that I'm referring to is VH1's Pop-Up Video. (Wow, remember that show?) Pop-Up Video featured five VH1 music videos per episode but with an added twist – a small window (officially called an "info-nugget) would popup at times during the video to show amusing facts and comments.

I'm not saying Mojiti is the same as Pop-Up Video but we do share a similar goal - to give viewers a new perspective on the video by showing them more information about what they are watching. On Pop-Up Video, the show's editors added the witty info-nuggets that made their videos so entertaining. But at Mojiti, everyone can be an "editor". Any user can annotate any video they want with a click of a button. You control the content by adding your own thoughts and insights (in the form of Spots and Spot Tickers) to any moment inside the video. The more Spots the community creates, the more the video changes, giving you a unique viewing experience each time around.

In the long run, how the Chinese Internet will eventually look 5 years from now is anyone's guess. The popularity of blogging and filesharing even in the midst of tight government content controls and e monitoring of public forums seems quite paradoxical but it does exist in China today. How the Chinese web using some of the newer social network technologies and user annotation tools coming from companies like Mojiti evolves will be an interesting spectacle of correction and adaptation for the next few years.

 

-Frank Yu