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Shufflr Aims to Make Video-Watching Social

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With so many videos uploaded everyday, finding the quality few can be a challenge. That's the idea behind Shufflr, a social video application that lets users link up to friends to recommend videos and receive recommendations.

The idea for the service began a year ago, says company founder and CEO Vinod Gopinath. With YouTube and Hulu as must-watch sites, Gopinath saw that people were having a hard time catching up with their video-watching, and were frustrated at not being able to find the videos they wanted.

At the same time, Gopinath saw that social networking was taking off, with the rapid growth of sites like Facebook and Twitter, and thought marrying the two ideas made sense.

Shufflr is based in Bangalore, India, and currently has a crew of seven. It's attracted venture capital attention, as it took in $3 million in VC funding three weeks ago. Gopinath can't disclose the institutional investor's identity yet, as the VC plans to make its own announcement at an upcoming event.

While currently in a testing phase, Shufflr will officially launch on Monday. It was Gopinath's goal to combine a lean-back experience for enjoying videos with a lean-forward experience to recommend them. Besides getting recommendations from friends, users can get recommendations from Shufflr based on their viewing history. Recommended videos can come from a variety of sites.

So far, Shufflr is only available as a downloadable Adobe Air application. Gopinath  says he wanted people to have "the Ferrari experience" first. While the interface is attractive, relying on people to download and run the application may have been a mistake. It's easier to imagine people making repeat visits to a browser-based service.

Going forward, Gopinath imagines Shufflr taking off in different variations. He knows that the beauty of the downloadable application comes at the expense of numbers. He'd like to have a tablet application available in a year, and also have a browser-based version that can run in the upcoming Google TV's browser.

At launch, Shufflr will have a few restrictions that should be corrected in time. Users can only recommend videos to their entire friend lists, not to one individual friend. Also, while the site supports videos by 15 to 20 video sites, it doesn't yet support Hulu. Since Shufflr plays videos in its own browser (including any associated ads), it doesn't have to ask permissions from video sites. We'd like to see Hulu, as well as Vimeo, added soon. The company is adding more sites all the time, Gopinath says.

People recommend videos everyday, using e-mail and Facebook, to name just two options. Do they want a dedicated application that achieves the same thing? Time will tell if Shufflr can find a following.

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