Web 2.0 has always been about giving the individual the power to publish without having to beg a media company for access. From blogs to podcasts to services like YouTube ordinary (and extraordinary) citizens have been able to publish their work for the world to see. Now Flixwagon lets you broadcast live from your cell phone, assuming of course, it has a built-in video camera, giving the citizen broadcaster the greatest power of all - live video blogging - and the possibilities are quite intriguing.
Testing it Out
I was lent a Nokia N95 cell phone recently for the purpose of testing the Flixwagon service and I found it simple to use and fun. With two clicks, one to access the service and one to start broadcasting, I was able to begin streaming live from the phone. The phone itself is an extraordinary device equipped with a camera that captures video and stills with a sophisticated 5 megapixel Carl Zeiss Lens.
By default, the video broadcasts and gets saved to your personal space on the Flixwagon web site, but you can also broadcast directly to your blog or even YouTube if you wish. Each video is saved as an original file, and because you are broadcasting to Flixwagon's servers, not saving locally, you are not limited by the cell phone's memory.
Power to the People
These services, whether it's Flixwagon or Qik make every person a broadcaster. We are no longer beholden to large media companies with expensive equipment and as staff of professionals to give us our news. We can now broadcast ourselves.
But interestingly enough, the networks have taken notice, and media companies are working with these services. Sarig Reichart who is co-founder and VP of marketing at Flixwagon, says services like his company's make it easier for citizen journalists to get involved.
"What you see out there today are big companies like CNN and CBS with their citizen journalism projects (See Citizen Journalists Need to Learn from Jobs Rumor Debacle). What those big guys can do is lower barriers [to participation]." What Reichart means is that instead of emailing or going to directly to a site as you must today to contribute, these media companies could provide an application that people could download to their cell phones and build an army of citizen journalists streaming live to their sites.
And Reichart believes it's not just the big guys that could get involved, but it would provide a way for small players and even individuals to access the same services.
Still Some Sticky Questions
While it sounds all well and good to arm individuals with live streaming capability, there is potentially a dark side to live streaming services, whether it's a privacy violation of an individual who doesn't want to be filmed, criminal activity, sexual activity or copyright violations (broadcasting live from a concert or a professional baseball game, for instance).
What's more, it will take a while for the cell phones and the video quality to catch up with the medium. Not that many cell phones even have video recording capability today, but I think this type of service, while in its infancy is precisely why you need a video camera on the phone. And dare I say, I predict in the not-too distant future it will be a must-have feature, just as a camera is today giving us all the potential to be citizen broadcasters.