Spreecast: A New Alternative to Skype and Google+ Hangouts [Interview]

May 2, 2012

4:30 pm

One of the highlights of much-maligned Google+ is the Hangout: video chats with up to 10 people. But a new competitor landed last fall in public beta: Spreecast.

Like Google+ Hangouts (and unlike Skype), Spreecasts can be public or private. And they require no software downloads: just enter the video URL and start talking with up to 3 other people. Other visitors can submit questions, comment, and chat. Like Google+ Hangouts, Spreecasts have attracted some top names, from Reese Witherspoon to Al Jazeera.

For startups, Spreecast can be a way to conduct interview with journalists (in fact, I interviewed founder and CEO Jeff Fluhr that way). Or, connect with customers to get feedback, answer customer service questions, and announce new products.

Whereas Google+ Hangouts are pretty closed, Spreecast lets you share videos on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and others. And you’ll find a few other neat features: you can embed a spreecast live on another website, and use tools to control who comes on camera and what privileges they have.

Below, Fluhr (who cofounded StubHub, sold to eBay) explains how all of us social media junkies could benefit from a little face-to-face interaction.

Tech Cocktail: Where does Spreecast fit in to our current online lifestyle?

Jeff Fluhr: Spreecast is all about face-to-face conversations. When you look at the last 10 years and the way that we all interact and communicate and stay connected through various social media tools and email and texting on our mobile devices, a lot of this has involved text-based, asynchronous communications….

Those are very valuable tools, and they’ve had a lot of positive impact on society and our ability to stay connected and stay in touch, but there’s something missing in that overall picture, which is the face-to-face conversation that has characterized the human race for thousands of years. For a long, long time, way before the Internet and obviously still today, people have face-to-face conversations and it’s a way that we interact socially with one another. There’s a lot of what we say that is more than just the words – it’s the body language, the facial expressions, the reactions when you’re talking to someone and the way that they’re responding to you, how they look and how their body language responds.

Particularly with the younger generation of teenagers and young adults, they’ve grown up in a world where they’re texting and they’re interacting on Facebook and on Twitter. So what’s missing is a lot of these people don’t have as much practice with social interactions, with talking to other people face-to-face, with how to become a socially active member of society.

Tech Cocktail: How is social video evolving? 

Fluhr: It’s a very new and emerging area because it’s only recently feasible. The technical components to have face-to-face conversations in the browser without installing software – it’s something that you really couldn’t have done very well 2 or 3 years ago. Even today it’s pretty early. Things like mobile for example: 3G connectivity is really not sufficient to have a good experience, but yet 4G –  which is coming very soon, it’s already emerging – will be a big explosion of bandwidth, which will make the experience much better for people on mobile devices. So we’re at that point now where the processing power of the computers and mobile devices are at the point where you can do this, the bandwidth that we have (not only computers but also mobile devices) is getting to the point where you can do this well….

So social video – the way that we use that term, which is interacting face-to-face and actually using the Internet to have conversations – is a new emerging space, and we think it’s going to be a really exciting space over the next 5+ years.

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Kira M. Newman is a Tech Cocktail writer interested in the harsh reality of entrepreneurship, work-life balance, and psychology. She is the founder of The Year of Happy and has been traveling around the world interviewing entrepreneurs in Asia, Europe, and North America since 2011. Follow her @kiramnewman or contact kira@tech.co.

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