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Fixated on faces


By Scott Bradner


What is it about people's faces that makes otherwise logical people totally ignore logic, human nature and years of experience?  That could be the lead in to all sorts of topics, most of which would not fit under the umbrella of what this paper thinks its readers are interested in.  In this case this is a lead in to a discussion of video over the 'Net.


What brought this topic to mind this time was an article in the September 12th New York Times Circuits section about two new video email products.  Both of the products let the user record a video snippet to be used in place of a text or still picture email message.  The first thought that pops to mind is "why?"  Sure there are some show-grandma-the-grandkids types of applications but what would have caused a venture capital company to think that there was a significant enough business market of this type of technology to warrant funding these companies?


The Times article called these products "video Karaoke" and like with traditional Karaoke you have to have a healthy ego, or a very good sense of humor to subject others to your efforts (or maybe too much alcohol or some other drug.)


Whatever the drug, it seems to be a long lasting one.  Companies and pundits have been pushing video grams and video conferencing as potential pots of gold seemingly forever, especially in times of economic crunch.  But so far they have been consistently inaccurate. 


There is a market but not all that big a one.  Maybe there will be a big market when the quality gets good enough to see if the person you are talking too is rolling his eyes as you are talking, but somehow I just do not see the attraction until at least then. Even then, I'm not sure the conversation is helped by the moving pictures.


My problem is that I do not see what the video adds to most of the phone conversations I have that would make me want to spend much more to get video.  (This does not take into account that the advent of video would mean that I would have to clean up at least one part of one wall in my Harvard & home offices.)  Good quality voice and a shared whiteboard seem to get you 90% of the way to an ideal situation -- high quality video, to me, would provide at most the other 10%. 


I must be missing something.  Too many people, for too long, have chased this rainbow for it to just be light reflected through vendor-produced fog.  But, maybe, just maybe, it's someone else who does not get it.


Disclaimer: Harvard produces both fog creators and fog cutters, none of whom to my knowledge have weighed in on this topic -- so this must be my own fog light.