The "Watch Later" Project

In the talk I had with Scoble a few weeks ago, I said the following:

What I want is a video plugin, where I have a little thing on my
browser, anytime you e-mail me a link and I see it in Gmail or you pass
a link to me in Friend Feed or Twitter, or I see a link in Facebook, or
I come across a video, I just want to bookmark it. But what… I really
want [is] to … queue it. And then, after I get home at
night, after … dinner with the kids and homework, that
hour-long time that I have where I sort of lean back, linear video, I
just want to go to my queue which I've built up over the past day or
two and just boom, sit back and watch linear video, watch this video,
and then the next thing is some funny clip somebody sent me and then go
watch Charlie Rose

[note – thanks to the simulscribe api for this transcription]

I've been saying this to anyone who will listen to me for the past six months. I've got Boxee on my big screen in our family room and when I am home at night, I'd like to fire up Boxee and watch all the video I've come across on the Internet but did not have time to get to.

The crazy thing is the same day the talk with Scoble was published, I got my wish (sort of). A developer named Monsur Hossain submitted a tool called BoxeeQueue to the Boxee App Competition. BoxeeQueue does exactly what you think it does. There's a bookmarklet that you add to your browser and you send video to a queue that is actually an rss feed in Boxee. I used BoxeeQueue over the weekend to watch some video and it works well.

But just as quickly as BoxeeQueue showed up, we've got a horse race going. My friend Daryn launched L8R which works via delicious. You simply tag videos with the L8R tag in delicious and they show up in a Boxee app Daryn built called L8R. I did not get to check out the L8R app this weekend, but L8R also has a web app and here are the videos I've queued up to watch L8R 🙂

But Daryn and Monsur are not the only people working on this problem. The comment thread to the Scoble talk mentions a few more and I'll be trying them out as they launch.

For the record, I don't think anyone has yet "nailed it" in terms of what the "watch later" tool should do. Here are the requirements as I see them:

1) Both a bookmarklet and extensions for the browsers that support extensions

2) You should be able to right click (or control click on a mac) on any link and have the video behind that link added to the queue. You should not have to click thru to the page to add something to the queue.

3) The queue should be available as a web app (as L8R has done) but also as an app on every media browser or media player out there. Boxee is a great place to start and I sure hope everyone starts there since its an open platform built from the ground up for something like this. But the queue should be available on xbox, playstation, wii, roku, appletv, windows media center, etc, etc.

4) There should be mobile apps for the iPhone, Blackberry, Pre, Android, Windows Mobile, etc. And it would be great if the mobile apps cached at least an hour of video so you can use the "watch later" app when you are not connected.

Since this "watch later project" is being done out in the open, I'd love to hear all of your thoughts on additional features this tool should have and also please let me know about any other groups, companies, developers working on this. I am sure there are a bunch out there. I'd like to compile a comprehensive list and publish it here.


Here is another service I learned about yesterday

Vodpod, Vodpod FF extension here

#VC & Technology

Comments (Archived):

  1. RWK: disruptive tech/guerrilla

    Personally, I want an app to downres a vid and convert to .mov for optional android iphone viewing. Or atleast simulupload to youtube which has mobile apps. Content portability was all the rage 5 ces ago but still nothing

    1. Guest

      give a try to http://reeplay.ityou save videos to playlists, each playlist you generate is an RSS feed which you can sync to your itunes and presto!

  2. Dan Lewis

    Like Instapaper, but for video, basically? That’d be amazing. Instapaper is one of the few bookmarklet tools I truly value. And that was before I realized the value it had for my iPod Touch because of the ability to read articles offline. The two features I’d add to instapaper are something like your #2, above, and also, a way for trusted friends to add things to my queue.

    1. fredwilson

      Instapaper for video is a good way to think about it

  3. paulhart

    I’d like to see a social aspect that lists the items my friends are watching (or take that out two levels) that I haven’t seen – friends’ trends. Geo trends could be interesting too – “In Spain the hot videos are…”

    1. fredwilson

      That’s a feature in boxee so that’s probably why these apps don’t have it. But that’s a good one. I note that L8R’s web app is public by default

      1. daryn

        Great feedback, Fred, thanks!A couple notes:Everything is public in L8R, since the source was initially public (in order to avoid registration, I uses the global rss feed for the ‘l8r’ tag). I went the simple route, which leaves everything except consuming/converting the bookmarks, to the client.Also, in addition to the website and boxee, your L8R stream is also available as RSS, which can be opened in iTunes or any other client that supports it. There may be a bug with this right now, as I tweaked a few things to be boxee specific during development, but I’ll give it some love tonight.

        1. fredwilson

          L8R is awesome daryn

  4. Marsh Gardiner

    I’ve used Yahoo Pipes for this kind of thing. For example, I subscribe to videos like TED Talks in my Google Reader (all grouped together into a media folder of course). As new talks are posted, I star any that sound interesting to me, which causes them to appear in my shared RSS feed…Similarly for things I’d like to listen to, such as an episode of a podcast to which I’m not subscribed, I use a _listen tag. Delicious provides feeds for tags…Both of those feeds run through a Yahoo Pipe (video or audio), which cleans things up a bit. I subscribe to those Pipe feeds in iTunes (or Canola, etc.) to create my own custom channels. I’ve even set up a custom podcast channels for some close friends, so when I hear something I think they’ll like, all I have to do is tag the MP3 for them, and it appears in their player of choice!

    1. fredwilson

      That’s great to hear. I think we need to come up with a more mainstream solution though

  5. Guest

    Assuming your requirements are about 90% met how much would you be willing to pay for said app as a consumer, not a vc?

    1. fredwilson

      I don’t think this is a paid app. There could be a paid version (ad free) but I think a free version with ads inserted every 30 mins (just like tv) would be way more popular.

  6. Jean-François Noël

    I would love to have the possibility to see what my friends are watching now… and have the possibilities to join in.Also have the offset in the bookmark so if I started listening to something I can resume later. Just like what I do with podcast on my iPhone, but stored in the web. That way I can continue later on any of my devices.

    1. fredwilson

      Offset is a great idea. Thanks!Boxee offers the first thing you want right now

  7. maverickny

    Video bookmarking and queuing would be cool, especially if I could just flip through them on an app on my iMac at the end of the day.What I would really like though, is an integrated cloud app that takes all my links that I save and be able to scan through them easily on the screen like PicLens or the iPhone does for photos. These links might come from a variety of sources, including Twitter, email, blogs etc but currently bookmarking and accessing them is pain. None of the services such as Delicious or Magnolia really works for this, nor does Google Reader.What would be cool is a Touch screen iMac and the ability to scan queued videos or weblinks easily like PicLens or the iPhone. Now that would be sweet.

    1. fredwilson

      Have you tried instapaper for links?

  8. IanWilson

    Region restrictions have been bothering me recently. It would be a great feature to have this app “proxy” links, if that is even possible, so the content provider thinks the stream is going to a US address but it is passed on to wherever in the world you happen to be at the time when you want to watch your queue.

    1. fredwilson


  9. MattCope

    I get it.This is how additional “layers on the stack” drive value in the underlying applications.This has been really cool to see unfold in real time.Opening a boxee account now…

    1. fredwilson


  10. monsur

    Thanks for the link to Boxqueue! I built this site as a personal pet project. After the Boxee App Challenge was announced, I thought I’d open it up to the rest of the world. All the code is open source (…, and runs on App Engine, so I welcome any contributions from outside developers.I hope to add new features as I have time, including a web interface for viewing and managing your queue. Another killer feature would be the ability to share your queue. When developing Boxqueue, I had a decision to make: Do I make the feed public and viewable by everyone, or do I make it private, so that only the user can view it. I went with the private route (or privacy through obscurity, as there can be no “private” feed without authentication), because I wanted the ability to automatically remove items from your queue.However, I think it would be great if Boxee offered OAuth or some other sort of authentication on RSS feeds. That way, I could share a public view of my queue with the rest of the world, but I could also have a private view that removed the videos after I watched them. (Note: I plan to add an option to toggle whether or not a video is removed from your queue, so you can share your queue if you like).This sharing aspect could also come into play when adding items to a queue. A site could set up a public bookmarklet/extension, which members could use to add interesting videos to a single feed. Individuals could then watch the videos submitted by all members!One of the biggest technical challenges for Boxqueue and sites like it is how to get at the data for videos across various sites. Each site has its own method of embedding a flash video on a site, and the techniques used by Boxqueue might not always discover the video, even though the video plays just fine in a browser. This is where open standards and APIs are useful. Boxqueue works great with YouTube because I leverage the YouTube Data API to load the canonical information about a video. Vimeo doesn’t offer an API per se, but if you view source on any of their video pages, you can find very useful information embedded in the metadata (along with some ascii art)! If you are a small site looking to share your videos across the web, providing this information in an easy to parse manner is very helpful.This concept of an API can also apply higher up the stack. Once a video is added to your queue, Boxee’s player controls may not always work with the video. This means you’re stuck watching a video you can’t pause or play! It’d be great if there were a standard way for videos to indicate where their play/pause/ff/rewind buttons were, so that regardless of the video source, any player could control them. HTML5’s “video” tag has support for a “controls” attribute, but it could go deeper and offer support for individual control types (maybe the “video” tag could contain a “control” subelement, with standard “rel” parameters for each control type).Anyway, these were just a few of my thoughts when working on Boxqueue. I hope the site proves useful to you and your readers. Thanks again for the link!

    1. fredwilson

      Wow. Lots of ideas in here monsur. Too many for me to reply to each of them. I agree about oauth support. I”ll suggest it to avner

  11. Jason

    a ratings system in the app. i want to know what my friends think about the content before i spend time watching it, unless it has the ability to port ratings information from the other media aggregators.

    1. fredwilson

      That’s a good point. I’m probably too boxee centric in my thinking because I use boxee for rating and sharing. You think the watch later app needs to support that stuff?

      1. Jason

        if we are thinking browser bookmarklet, then you are building platform independent. if you are building this web app strictly for Boxee, then you have a ratings system. if the system is platform independent and gains traction without having the ability to pull ratings from other aggregator sites, then yes definitely. sure “the number of saves” is a decent metric, but personally when it comes to video only have time for 5 stars type of guy. if it could export the list as a queue for my favorite standalone media player, super bonus, but we are getting fancy. maybe just something that gives the effect that i am watching “my channel” with “my queue” and not just hopping around the web to watch videos. totally said without researching what is already available and happily awaiting a true internet tv experience.

        1. fredwilson

          I def want this to be multiplatform. I believe it needs to be a function in the internet OS

  12. Jonathan Bruck

    Great feature list. I would like to see some basic organization. I archive a lot of cartoon clips (great access to foreign language learning), theme songs, etc… for my kid to watch. Today I have to download from youtube, convert to itunes and sync to my ATV and iPhone. This should be a 1 click operation.Having some way to do simple folders or tagging is going to be valuable otherwise you end up with the current Kindle problem where once you start adding more than books, like articles you want to read the simple list view by recent become tedious to manage.As for pricing if it really worked seamlessly I would expect the bookmarking and online viewing pieces to be free or add supported and would pay to have access on various distributed points. ie. $20 a year to have the App on Boxee, $5 a year to have it on iPhone, etc…

    1. fredwilson

      Spot on

  13. Steffan Antonas

    Fred, That answers my question about the Delicious “watch later” app from the comments on your previous post completely. Hat tip to Daryn for a job well done with L8R

  14. Morgan Warstler

    Clearleap makes a product for the cable companies that grabs and ingests online video into their VOD system. Weirdly, I expect this will become more common in the next couple years, particularly because set top boxes have such a horrible time with “search.”Giving the TV viewer a “web remote” to access on a PC, tablet, phone that controls VOD/DVR/L8R-style viewing is likely the only way to make great strides in managing million of files for TV. We’re gonna need a two screen solution.For Boxee right now – it might make sense for them to hook up with mike robertson’s mp3tunes. Its locker does video too, and offers “side loading” which actually makes copies of the online files you find.

  15. NICCAI

    Yeah, I think sharing is a key part of this equation (I’ve been batting this idea around too for a long time). I like the idea of being able to watch other channels besides your own. I also think you need tagging support, so you can browse for videos saved by others. Also, trending videos and things like most mentioned on twitter. If you could do across your “friends” list, it would be even more powerful. It needs to be 100% streaming also, otherwise I think you enter a litigation quagmire.

    1. NICCAI

      One thing I’ll add. I’d be leery of putting too much emphasis on Boxee. I think Boxee is a superb solution, and I think support for it is key to support the geekery. However, you need something much more tangible for the mainstream. Ultimately, I think you need to think less about using your app on other devices, and more about how you can get the data stream malleable enough to be consumed on other devices. I think you need to focus as much on the api around this as you do on the app itself. We have already become journalists and broadcasters, and the next likely step is to become the networks of tomorrow. AVC could easily be as noteworthy as NBC.

      1. fredwilson

        I agree that this service has to be on as many media consumption platforms as possible and said so in my post. I think boxee is a great place tp start though

  16. <name>

    As for a mobile solution when bookmarklets are unavailable, has anyone seen a service that converts email into a personal RSS feed? I suppose I could do this with something like Posterous – setup a “watch later” blog on Posterous and either forward messages from others or email other things I want to look at later.

  17. Nigel Walsh

    hey Im still waiting for the windows version, then Ill give it a go.. Im still running Vista Media Centre which is great…. Perhaps we should all vote for Freds Friday Wish…. and see what gets created @sonos (you know Im going to say Blackberry support!)

    1. fredwilson

      Windows has been available for months but just not promoted. Its coming into its own next week. June 23rd. Its a big day for boxee as a lot of other stuff will launch then too

      1. Nigel Walsh

        Thanks – have added a note to my diary to check it out.

  18. Glenn Gutierrez

    Sweet. I’d like to submit for the “Watch Later” Project. You’re right, the first step to a seamless video watching experience is the bookmarking capability but surely the end goal is to be able to eat dinner with the family while watching your online video queue directly from your TV. I definitely think Boxee is a great step toward this goal. But there are some serious technical hurdles that prevent this smooth integration, such as coding for video file formats and flash generally.But you’re right on the mark (in regards to viewing experience) where you talk about what the “watch later” tool should do and that no one has “nailed it” yet. You previously talked about how Tivo has similar capabilities but that there is too much friction. What that ultimately comes down to is C.S.S. aka convenience, speed and simplicity. An application that can convey C.S.S. in the best way will ultimately gain the most traction because it appeals to all audiences despite their preferences in videos and experience in technology. Something that is hardcore enough for the tech savvy yet something that average web users can pick-up without much thought.Right now watching video is a lot like having a car with only manual transmission and a 4 cylinder engine, but racing enthusiasts and people who just like driving want something more convenient, speedier and simpler to pick up. Therefore, the best application is one that can turn a world with only manual transmissions and 4 cylinder engines into one with automatics and 6 cylinders or more. Therefore, a video bookmarking app should be convenient when cruising the web and allow bookmarking from as many sources as possible. It should be speedy in how it saves and collects videos, whether it’s only one video or multiple ones. Finally, it needs to be simple enough so that anyone can use it but its features need to be powerful enough yet conveniently organized for the user.I think we’ve got a good combination for you. Out of your 4 requirements we’ve got 2 set-up and the other 2 waiting in the wings. But the first step is to get the first 2 requirements right because if those two are wrong that’s a ton of wasted development on something unusable.

    1. fredwilson

      Pls let me know when you’ve got something for me to try out

  19. Guest

    Dear Fred,Twitter says that it will shut down for maintenance tonight. Can you, please, talk to them to postpone it. Many are concerned with shutting down the twitter-feed from Tehran and that it can have demoralizing effect on the demonstrators.Thanks!

    1. fredwilson

      The state dept beat me to it 🙂

  20. euwyn

    Right on the mark Fred. Been wanting something like this for a while as well. The problem with on-demand video is the necessity of having to actually pick what to watch (wow, we sound spoiled as consumers). Much better to build up buffer during the day when websurfing and get ready to just sit back and enjoy when decompressing on the couch.Definitely would need something that makes adding a video to the queue as simple as a command-D (ala Delicious) or a right click. Any more effort and I’ll simply be too lazy to use it.

    1. fredwilson

      Yup. That’s the key

  21. mattweeks

    Fred, thanks for starting this thread. The key “desires” of consumers around “play later” are right in our wheel-house.We have been hard at work on a platform delivering “play later” leveraging our three key consumer-centric benefits of “Content, Control and Community.” It’s great to see this emerge and to see so many people tinkering with different aspects of the solution. We’re set for launch this summer.Let’s keep the conversation going here. We are looking forward to hearing what people want on their “wish list.”Matt

    1. fredwilson

      Pls let me know when you launch

  22. Guest

    There’s an app like this that works on many devices http://reeplay.itthey publish their APIs so you can develop plugins.There’s a plugin I use on XBMC which allows me to do just that (playing sequentially or random a playlist)With two mouseclicks I can watch on a mobile phone and sync my iphone and furthermore, there’s sharing among family and friends.

    1. fredwilson

      I’ll check this out and add it to my post

      1. Guest

        I saw an email from you but unintentionally deleted it before reading it ! could you resend ?

        1. fredwilson

          Do you know what it was about?

          1. Guest

            no clue.. sorry.

  23. timo

    Interesting. A tool I really like and use a lot is by a friend of mine, Gregor Hochmuth, who now works at Google. Is this what you want?(It’s easy to use in on your mobile phone because it’s designed very phone-friendly.)

    1. fredwilson

      No sure. I’ll check it out

  24. Vasudev Ram

    Quite an innovative idea, Fred – Watch Later, that is. I’ve been thinking of something on the same lines but more general, for a while now, i.e., a sort of Watch Later system that works not just for video but for any kind of link or web page. The idea arose from the dissatisfaction I have with current methods I use to preserve links to read later. While surfing the web I sometimes feel a conflict between whether to drill down into a page I come across, i.e. read the contents linked off of that page, depth-first, so to speak, or to move on to other pages I’ve already opened. (This often happens when I’ve just opened a few interesting pages linked from Hacker News, for instance.) And the same conflict applies iteratively or recursively to the content of those other pages :-)I currently use a few different methods, such as bookmarking the links in Firefox, sometimes in a bookmarks folder named after the current date (not a good way I feel, as it doesn’t let you know later what pages were in that list), sometimes save the links from that bookmark folder in a text file (with some links labeled with a tag system of my own), save that text file both on my hard disk and in my email (so I can access it from anywhere), sometimes save to my Delicious page, have checked out some web services for bookmarking, and so on.All in all, it’s a hotchpotch of methods, and I find none of these methods entirely satisfactory or efficient and convenient enough. Of course, I’ve not fully evaluated the pros and cons of them yet – that is an ongoing exercise. So I was interested in your Watch Later idea and will follow this thread. If I come up with any idea that I find more useful I’ll mention it here in the comments.Thanks, Vasudev.

    1. Vasudev Ram

      BTW, Disqus is cool. (Had an account but hadn’t seen the Edit comment feature before.) I’d made a small typo in my comment just above, and could edit and correct in a flash. 🙂

      1. fredwilson

        Yes it is cool. Way cool 🙂

    2. fredwilson

      Something simple is best I thinkHave you tried instapaper for posts you want to read later?

      1. Vasudev Ram

        True. No, not tried instapaper, but will now, thanks.

  25. Mark 'Rizzn' Hopkins

    Wasn’t this originally developed under the term “podcasting”?

  26. franksinton

    Hi Fred- Long time reader, first time commenting….This particular subject has gone back and forth over the past few years. We’ve had a “user queue” for a long time, which has elements of what you are talking about (… – recently renamed to just “watch”). I think this is what you are alluding to, rather than search or tag feeds.User queues are useful, depending on the type of video. Three good examples would be:1. Serial video – i.e. users want to know when the latest episode of Lost is available and “queue” it to watch later. This is where the Subscribe/Queue mechanism works best. 2. Rapid playlisting, such as one might do in a video search for a topic of high interest to you. 3. Friends’ recommendations where you can queue up everything that is recommended by friends (i.e. from Twitter, FF, YouTube, FB, etc…)However, for a lot of user videos or viral videos (which, i would argue, is still the majority of mainstream video consumption right now), this isn’t as useful as that is typically more of a “watch now” experience rather than a “watch later”.Based on what we have seen, search feeds (and to some extent, tag feeds) work great for queuing. Recent news and events are great applications of this. For example, having a constant, auto-updating search stream of new videos on the Iran Elections is very conducive to a lean-back experience where you can flip from video to video.There are a lot of variations on this, of course… i am looking forward to the continued discussion.

    1. fredwilson

      I think, like twitter, if someone builds a simple and ubiquitous watch later service, we’ll see a ton of use cases and many we never thought of

  27. Dan Weinreb

    Check out the “Read It Later” Firefox add-on. It has many, many featuresand options, but basically it just bookmarks the thing so you can goback to it later. It’s that on steroids.…– Dan Weinreb