Isn't it refreshing when an innovative twist to the clip culture revolution comes from an unsuspecting blast from the past? Lycos rolled out is Lycos Cinema this week. Before I dig into what makes the offering intriguing despite some initial flaws, let's go into history refresher mode to brush up on Lycos.
It was 10 years ago when Lycos and Yahoo!
With globetrotting parents, Lycos was eventually sold by Spain's Telefonica to South Korea's Daum Communications. Even though it continues to be run in Massachusetts, the iconic company wasn't really turning a lot of heads until earlier this year.
The opportunist rings twice
The last time I discussed Lycos was back in March when the company announced a thrifty online phone service that aimed to undercut eBay's
Lycos is making headlines again this week, and this time it's miles away from where it can be tripped up by eBay.
Hoping that there is a market for free ad-supported screenings of full-length feature films, Lycos Cinema is hoping to land its niche somewhere between the free video clip streaming sites like YouTube and the commercial digital downloading services that were recently introduced by Amazon.com
But Lycos isn't making its mark by simply streaming longer running films and tagging them with short video ads at the beginning and the end. Archive.org has been a haven for film buffs looking to watch public domain flicks for years now. What Lycos is bringing to the table is an eclectic collection of more contemporary celluloid fare and a format that encourages social interaction.
You can start streaming any of the films whenever you want or you can join an active screening. Viewers can then interact with the others in the virtual chatrooms that hold as many as 10 people at one time. In theory, one can schedule a screening for later that night and email some friends to populate the virtual Cineplex. The rub is whether folks will warm up to the Lycos Cinema reels.
For now, the limited selection consists of mostly obscure indie productions. Calling some of the offerings B-movies would probably be too great a compliment. Then again, combine a bad movie with a friendly chatroom, and you've got your own version of Mystery Science Theater 3000.
No good deed goes uncopied
Do I think that Lycos Cinema has a shot to duke it out with the big boys of viral video? Probably not. Then again, you never know what can happen if it builds out its video collection with more mainstream fare through revenue sharing deals.
For now, Lycos Cinema is providing a seed of innovation. Just as sites like Digg, Wikipedia, and Flickr kicked off the Web 2.0 movement with interactive goodies that larger sites went on to emulate, Lycos has a good idea here that others are bound to run with.
Does this mean that, by this time next year, Google's
This industry is just in its infancy. In a few years, it will be a Frankenstein's monster of sorts. What works will be a collection of vital organs and body parts culled from the dead and the barely living. Too grim? Too campy? Fear not, my friends -- if it's too grim and campy you can probably catch it on Lycos Cinema sooner rather than later.
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Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz has kept Lycos bookmarked over the years but he does not own shares in any of the companies mentioned in this story. He's also a B-movie buff so he got into some of the Lycos Cinema clips he previewed yesterday. Rick is also part of the Rule Breakers newsletter research team, seeking out tomorrow's ultimate growth stocks a day early. The Fool has a disclosure policy.