Reviewing Truveo, AOL's New Video Search Portal

by Paul William Tenny

truveo.jpgYou may or may not have heard, AOL/Time Warner has launched a video search engine called Truveo in an attempt to take on Google for advertising dollars and search dominance. This is one area where I expected Google to pioneer and excel, but they've languished under their own weight. Any attempt to search for video at Google will only return results for Google Video and YouTube, not video on the Internet at large.

Truveo aims to do just that.
The site itself is live at and would appear to feature video mostly from content providers, as opposed to literally scraping video off the 'net. I suppose there isn't much recourse, since most people seem to be using all manner of different flash applications to play video, even though they are all playing the same video format (flv, flash video, which is actually a container for VP6 and MP3.) Most sites go to great lengths to hide the location of the .flv videos because once you know where they are, you can save them locally and play them with something like VLC.

I see featured clips from the Associated Press, CNN, YouTube, other news outlets like ABC and the BBC too. Most of it other than the short news clips looks like typical YouTube crap, so I question the wisdom of the following thought from Variety.

As huge amounts of video content pour onto the Web, including user-generated content and professional clips from studios, networks and Web pure-plays, video search has been identified by many as an underserved market.

If Truveo succeeds, studios, networks and other content owners could see an increase in traffic and, possibly, advertising.

While the main page is occupied by flotsam, a quick click on this link leads you to the "Top TV Shows" page. The big four are all represented with NBC and FOX's content being old reality shows. It appeared at first that entire episodes of CBS' CSI were available for viewing, but when I clicked on an episode to check out the quality, all I got where the video should have been was a notice that said "This video can only be played from the original site where it is hosted." All that was left was a link back to the main CBS website.

According to information provided about the video on that page, the bitrate was about 600kbps, which is really terrible when compared to broadcast quality standard definition, but fairly typical for streaming video from sites that aren't really serious about raising the bar. Despite what the page says, 600kbps is not excellent quality.

ABC's content for Grey's Anatomy appears to be limited to behind-the-scenes video, with no full length episodes anywhere in sight.

I spotted a page with episodes of the Scifi Channel's Stargate: SG-1, and was eager to see if they had anything from the final season which aired earlier this year. The Quest, Part 1 was the 10th episode from the final season, and was on the "Amazon Unbox" channel. Amazon Unbox is a paid-downloading service, and just as I had thought, you can't watch it from Truveo until you've bought it. Just the same as was the case with CSI, you couldn't watch it from inside Truveo either.

Many of the Stargate episodes were on channels that are associated with pay-download services, such as Amazon Unbox, and iTunes. One episode from the first season was Sci-Fi listed as the channel, and as was the case with everything else thus far, it couldn't be played through the Truveo interface.

When I navigated to Scifi's website, I found a video that refused to play, listed under the category "Best of", meaning even if it had, it wasn't a full episode at all. If Truveo is looking to become the place to full episodes of TV shows, they have a very long way to go.

Obviously their started purpose of being the definitive search engine for video is apt, and everything on that front seems good. I just don't think they should offer up an interface that looks like its built to allow you to view any video you find, when in fact you can't view a damn thing without leaving the site.

It would be nice if some company with the resources of Time Warner would build a real streaming TV site. None of this 600kbps stuff, we need 1.2mbps bare minimum. None of this "best of" clip crap, people want the whole show.

Otherwise, the search aspect looks solid, and beats the hell out of Google's video search.

For now.


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