Samsung's latest app wants to help you find viral videos
Do you have a hard time finding funny viral videos? If you have a Samsung Galaxy phone, Samsung thinks you do. So the company made an app called Milk Video that finds videos for you to watch from all around the internet.
Milk Video, which sounds like a bad name because it is, is a new sibling app for Milk Music, a streaming music service Samsung launched earlier this year. Its entire purpose, says Samsung VP of content and services Kevin Swint, is to solve what the company views as a disjointed online video viewing experience on phones.
'They're always the last one to see the video that everyone is talking about.'
'Discovery happens in a very haphazard and random way. You tend to come across viral videos either by someone sending you an email, or text, or something like that,' Swint says. 'But this experience being kind of random leaves a lot of people feeling like they're always the last to see the video that everyone is talking about.'
Samsung's answer to that is a never ending zeitgeist of trending, or otherwise interesting internet videos that you can view in one big list. Those videos are chosen with a mix of human and software curation, as well as from a set of content partners that Samsung says will publish exclusive clips that can't be found elsewhere. To play anything, you just tap a thumbnail and it starts streaming. You can also continue to hunt for other things to watch while videos are playing, which YouTube has done in its own app for some time now.
The list of videos is always changing, so Samsung's put some semblance of order with a rainbow-colored bar along the right side of the screen that you can use to jump between genres like you would alphabetical contacts in your phone's address book. This is also a lot like the circular navigation Samsung uses in its Milk Music app, which is no mistake.
How all this ends up being better than what you'd get on first-party video apps from YouTube, Vimeo, and on social news apps like Reddit and Digg is something Samsung can't quite answer yet, except to say that it will have things you won't find elsewhere. Swint says that beyond a team of people to feed Milk Video with new clips, it's partnered with BuzzFeed, CollegeHumor, Vice, Tastemade, Fandango, and others to pepper the service with exclusive videos and original content they won't find elsewhere. Alongside those, there are your standard clips from YouTube, which in my brief testing appear to make up a good chunk of what Samsung shows on its 'popular' section. Swint notes that Samsung can add on just about any other video provider that has an API.
Samsung eventually wants to alert you to videos when they go viral
To take the service one step beyond tracking what's popular, Swint says that Samsung plans to alert people to hot new videos with Android push notifications, so that they'll no longer that last person to see it. This isn't available in the app right now, and Swint is keen to note that the company will be be overly cautious about about spamming people with links once it arrives.
In many ways, Samsung's also trying to prop this up as a social network of its own, which is odd given that it expects most sharing of any videos you find to be done on Facebook, Twitter, and elsewhere. You can 'repost' things to your Milk Video account, almost like retweets on Twitter, and follow other users to see what they've reposted. You can also follow Milk Video content channels you like. The one big thing you can't do though, is submit your own videos, something Swint says Samsung could add later on.
Samsung says much of the reason for launching Milk Video is what it views as a success of Milk Music, though the company is incredibly cagey about the real numbers. Speaking to journalists yesterday, Swint called Milk Music 'a great success,' adding that there are now 'millions' of users. The company was equally mum about how many people are paying for Samsung's premium service, which costs $3.99 a month to get rid of the hourly restrictions on skipping songs.
Samsung says Milk Music made people want to buy Galaxy phones
Success or not, Milk Music and now Milk Video raise the question of whether these exclusive services are actually making people buy Samsung's phones. The app will be available from Google's Play Store, as well as Samsung's Galaxy Apps store, but just like its music service, you can only download and use it if you own one of Samsung's newer Galaxy devices from the past few years. Swint says that yes, people are buying Samsung's phones to use Milk Music, though he wouldn't say if it was causing more people to make those purchases. That's an important difference.
Arguably, the main problem with Milk Video is that you can get much of what Samsung is offering here (short of the exclusives and the navigation), in countless other places, including YouTube, where a big chunk of this content is coming from. Exclusive videos might help with that, but you can still share these videos elsewhere - including Facebook. Where Samsung got anything right with Milk Music was in trying to solve the problem that finding music can be difficult. It made it very easy to skip around and discover new tracks, which is something it's managed to do just fine here with videos. Where it missed the mark is that internet videos really aren't hard to find or watch. In 2014, the odds are that you can view them from any device, no matter what platform you're on, which flies in the face of this being something to draw you into Samsung's ecosystem. Without more here, it's hard to see that changing.