Are Live Video Web Sites the Next Internet Fad?

Last winter, when the roof of a supermarket in northern Norway collapsed, journalists were unable to get to the scene in time because of freezing conditions and icy roads.

Apple iPhone 4
Emmanuel Dunand | AFP | Getty Images
Apple iPhone 4

So they asked a local person to download Bambuser onto their mobile and go to the scene to film the damage. This was all streamlined live to the Norwegian channel, which put out the footage live on air as they received it.

A new breed of social networking is emerging, with instant video transmission at its centre. And that, according to co-founder Jonas Vig, is its magic.

“The basic is to be able to share your experiences, right here, right now, even if they’re (your audience) on the other side of the world,” Vig explained. “Interactivity makes video so much more engaging. The audience can be part of the creation, helping you direct.”

Social networking is heading to more pictures, more images, more video – more content in general, Mark Taylor, vice-president of content and media at communication services provider Level 3, told

"A lot of this is driven by people having this technology on their mobile devices," Taylor added.

In the case of Bambuser, as the user films with his mobile he can connect directly not only to his own Bambuser channel, but to twitter, Facebook and Myspaceamong other sites. And the audience, (friends or others, depending on your privacy settings), can type instructions that show up on the user’s screen as he is shooting.

“I think it’s more likely for this kind of site to increase the flow of images and videos from major news events like Haiti, Iran," Taylor said.

"We’ll see real-time images, instead of blurry after-shots. It increases the emotional impact when you can see these tremendous eye-witness accounts of events as they happen – or nearly as they happen," he added.

Fame, Friends and Family

Bambuser competes with Silicon Valley’s Qik and San Francisco’s Kyte and its concept is similar to that of, a video-sharing community for pranks run by British billionaire Alki David where viewers can watch the pranks live as they happen.

In August, David launched a dare promising $1 million to anyone who faces Obama naked. The condition, of course, is that the prank is played live on

The model could become a favorite for the public, since it combines people's thirst for fame with their pleasure to share news with friends and family, according to some experts.

"The most successful applications are ones that tap into this desire to share content with your network of friends," Christian Hernandez, head of international business development at Facebook.

During the 2009 Climate Conference in Copenhagen, Denmark, demonstrations outside the headquarters of the conference were heated. So journalists went in to get shots of the protests with their Bambuser downloaded applications, streaming live video from their mobiles back to their bases.

Taylor agrees that such sites are useful for journalists in situations like this. “If you’re shooting with a big camera and a boom mic, you’re more likely to become part of the story, " he said.

"But with mobile devices and technology like this, people can become more inconspicuous witnesses and capture what’s really happening in any given moment.”

Emergency responders in Sweden are also using the service to prepare for the scene of an accident. “Fire-fighters and ambulances can streamline live video from the scene back to the central. This gives an unparallel overview of the situation allowing them to organize a better operation,” Vig told

Bambuser was launched in 2008 and its users are “a healthy six-figure number,” Vig said, but refused to disclose exact figures. Most of them are in the US, he added.