"But the shortest works are always the best," wrote the French poet, and video sharing start-up 12seconds is counting on that being true. The simple site, which launches an invitation-only alpha today (500 invites for Webware readers at the end of this post), places a 12-second limit on the videos its users can share.
Twelve seconds. Less than a quarter of a minute. It's enough to make Flickr's much-derided 90-second clips look like Lawrence of Arabia.
And that's the point, according to the 12seconds team, all of whom are working on the site as a side project. The idea is to keep the focus on status updates, letting users share--via video--what they're doing in a single moment. (The phrase "video Twitter" feels overused, but it wouldn't be inaccurate.) The time limit is also just the kind of restriction that frees people to be creative; on a quick cruise through the videos posted so far I saw plenty of people talking to their Webcams, but I also found some underwater advertising, a request for math help, and an experimental film.
The time limit also distinguishes 12seconds from Seesmic, which allows lengthier clips and has many more features for creating synchronous video conversations.
The simple concept of 12seconds is backed up by a simple interface: once you sign up you can begin capturing video directly from your computer's Webcam. You're also given a dedicated e-mail address to which you can send video from your phone or desktop. You can name and tag videos as well as share the location where the clip was shot; the site provides a permalink and code so you can embed videos elsewhere. (My captivating test footage is embedded at the bottom of this post.) Like Flickr, other users can comment below your videos; like Twitter, you can "follow" other users.
The site is still in alpha, so more features could appear before its official launch. And of course there's the question of how this will make any money. But 12seconds' David Speiser tells me company is committed to both simplicity and brevity going forward, and that a business model is in the works (though he's not sharing specifics).
Meanwhile, 12seconds will likely remain a quirky little corner of the Web. If you're eager to join in, the company has provided invitations for the first 500 Webware readers to leave their name and address at this page.
Catch of the day on 12seconds.tv