Can Video and E-mail Converge Successfully?

Despite the proliferation of webcams and the pervasiveness of e-mail, a mixture of the two has long failed to manifest itself in the online marketplace. A new start-up called Gabsight is currently beta-testing a free service which may change that.

Gabsight is putting the finishing touches on two free video e-mail services which require no registration and no downloads to use. Gabmail, a one-to-one video e-mail system, and Gabjam, a multi-user collaborative e-mail system, allow users to record messages which are hosted by Gabsight, and then send recipients an e-mail with a link to access the message.

“It’s all Flash-based and just works,” Gabsight CEO Mark Lipsky told ClickZ. “With typical e-mail it’s threaded and you scroll down. What we do instead is, as the video conversation is processed, each video conversation is accessible through a series of thumbnails.”

As part of the Gabsight video e-mail, users are shown a banner ad and a small advertisement played after the sender’s message, which Lipsky believes will be unobtrusive to users.

“We feel that it’s a service to the user, so they see in their three or four second teaser what they are being pitched at the end of the message that they watched,” he said.

Some initial beta-testers, however, were disturbed by the advertising model.

“I tried it out and the ads turned me off, so I likely would not recommend it,” said Burke Shartsis, a graphic design student at San Jose State University in California. “It was the first site I’ve seen that uses Flash’s Webcam features, which was cool for a designer to see. I would totally be interested in using it, if it wasn’t for the built-in ads. It was at the end of my message, and had it been before I would have been even more disappointed. But there has to be a way to receive ad revenue without going about it this way.”

Another concern is the potential for abuse from spammers and others, said Ian Schafer, CEO of interactive marketing agency Deep Focus.

“They are going to have to do a really good job to protect themselves from abuse. The curiosity of getting an e-mail saying a video is waiting for them is a strong call to action,” said Schafer. “The flip side is that it might actually become a valuable tool for business to business partners. From a user experience standpoint it sounds like a good one.”

The initial release of the Gabsight service can be found at Freegabmail.com. The company plans on launching its formal service and Web site next year.

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