Top Social Video Apps Worth Watching

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To be the "Instagram of video" is to be one of the kings of the tech development world right now. There are a handful of startups competing for the title, but it turns out, being the Instagram of video is hard. Video is just different than photos. So different that the future remains murky as to which might be the breakout winner and which might become the Friendster of video, a title nobody wants.

So what does the winning video platform need to do, besides capture HD video? First, the user interface and content management system have to be simple and intuitive; then the filters and editing all have to be one-touch; the cloud has to be fast and dynamic; the playback has to be secure and intelligent; and it needs to have a social platform to generate lots of users so that it can become a valuable acquisitions target for Google or Facebook.

How hard could all that be? Turns out, really hard. Here’s a roundup of the companies vying to achieve all that and more as the "Instagram of video," and what prospects they have in store for branded sponsors.

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Snapchat

The concept of Snapchat is simple enough: share photos and videos that self-destruct after one viewing. It seemingly solves the problem of your naughty bits going viral, therefore encouraging the teenagers to sext each other with newfound vigor. Problem is, Snapchat can be hacked and those self-destructed videos didn’t self-destruct after all. Oops. With this major design flaw, it wouldn’t appear that Snapchat will survive to its monetization phase in its current form, not unless it can reassure users that it can’t be hacked.

on our walk home. #livecolorfully vine.co/v/bppXhU6xIxe

— kate spade new york (@katespadeny) March 19, 2013

Vine

The biggest reason Vine isn’t the Instagram of video is that you can only use Vine on Twitter. In fact, Vine is owned by Twitter, and 140 characters in video is equal to six seconds. With the ability to embed the six-second loops into a tweet, Vine might be onto something. Also, Vine is apparently swamped with porn. Isn’t that a good sign? Like all good startups, Vine’s monetization strategy is just over the next horizon, but one could imagine Twitter developing sponsored tweet-style for Vine that could serve ads in the native environment. Interestingly, there are already plenty of brands already finding cool ways to use it.

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Viddy

The team behind Viddy boiled down the concept of their service into: capture, beautify, share. That seems like the right idea, and taking a page out of the partnership with Justin Timberlake and Myspace, Viddy has developed a page for Brittney Spears with the feel of a YouTube channel. With this model, it’s easy to see how a sponsor could get involved and make its presence known on Viddy.

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Socialcam

Socialcam bills itself as the “easiest way to take and share videos,” and it had its moment as one of the first Instagram-style video sites out there, but when the number of its users cratered after Facebook changed its app policy, it’s hard to say if Socialcam will weather the storm.

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Tout

If there’s a Vine-killer among the current crop of Instagram-for-video hopefuls, it’s Tout. With decent reviews and celebrity users like Shaq, Kelly Ripa and the Wall Street Journal, Tout allows its users 15 seconds of video, which is like an hour compared to Vine’s six-second limit. As for potential business opportunities, Tout is touting its Siri-like voice recognition software, which will allow it to recognize what sorts of conversations are taking place in order to help brands better target potential messaging. Sounds like a winner.

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Qwiki

Less of a video maker and more of a slide-show generator built from user videos, still photos and the user’s music library, Qwiki has just launched a new version, which represents its graduation from beta testing. It racked up 125,000 downloads in under a week, so that’s not bad. While the jury is still out on how sponsors might take advantage of Qwiki, several media publishers are already on board using Qwiki to broadcast their content.

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Thwapr

With most video-sharing business models based on video measurable by the second, there’s obviously a niche for a service like Thwapr, which allows users to share longer videos. With Thwapr’s trademarked Share to Phone feature, users can send videos directly to any other smartphone. Thwapr thinks this feature will be loved by sponsors as the videos will be enabled to run pre-roll and post-roll ads without the need for the recipient of the video to have downloaded an app. App-less ad serving, potentially a big deal.

What's your social video app?