I invested in vpod.tv. I asked Rodrigo Sepulveda, one of the two entrepreneurs behind vpod.tv, to send me a company description and this is what he sent me:

vpod.tv is an easy online video publishing and syndication platform for the web and mobile devices aiming at the global consumer market, enabling massive new user-generated content and personal customizable TV-channels. It brings a real convergence between fixed and mobile devices such as computer screens, TVs, mobile phones, and portable media players.

Now this is what Rodrigo says. To me vpod is a youtube made by Europeans. When I see the most popular American web sites I generally find them lacking in design and functions. It is as if they were designed for the least common denominator of visitor, which is fine for these companies, but it is disappointing to me. There are American companies who excel at design and function. Apple is a good example in terms of hardware, or Technorati, a search site with satisfying functionality and beautiful design, but these companies are exceptions and in general America produces sites like Youtube, which are very simple to use but lack features and look ugly. In America if you choose design and features that require some learning you are alienating 3/4 of the population, in Europe instead people are more appreciative of design and are more willing to learn about your site. America is a country of extremes, it has the most educated and the least educated people among the rich countries, Europe has a better average and this is why it pays off to invest in design and functions over here. So this is why I prefer Netvibes to My Yahoo when choosing a home page and I prefer vpod to Youtube. I know that My Yahoo will always have more viewers than Netvibes and same will be the case with Youtube vs Vpod.tv. But I like to invest in sites that I like to use and hence my investment in Netvibes and Vpod.tv.

Follow Martin Varsavsky on Twitter: twitter.com/martinvars

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killy-the-frog on June 24, 2006  · 

I am in China…
And with a French point of view… I can say that Chinese website sucks.
For me, they are ugly, flashy, full of advertising, very tired to look at…. But most of them are like that.
I do not know if it is that the public do not care and that the publisher try to make as much money as possible for advertising… or if they like? or ??? if someone know….

Whatver, it was just to say that the we can see the culural diffence through website design.

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Nicolas Halftermeyer on June 27, 2006  · 


Congratulations on your investments in French start-ups.

Both Tariq and Rodrigo are nice people and serial entrepreneurs.

Working with Rodrigo at glowria.com (the French online DVD rental competitor to Netflix) was amazing, I wish you a lot of fun and success.

Merci et bravo !

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Peter Hogenkamp on June 29, 2006  · 

In America if you choose design and features that require some learning you are alienating 3/4 of the population, in Europe instead people are more appreciative of design and are more willing to learn about your site.

I wonder what evidence that statement is based on. Most of the time, when designers/developers/programmers are talking about “willingness to learn about a site”, they are simply making up an excuse for bad usability. My company Zeix has conducted about 1500 usability tests (all of them in Europe, so I couldn’t compare “people in Europe” to “people in America” just like that), and I seriously doubt that people like difficult to use sites. My strong guess is that people all around the world hate stuff that is harder to figure out than necessary.

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Martín Varsavsky on June 29, 2006  · 

Nobody likes difficult web sites, they just like to have more features. To me the best example is http://www.technorati.com vs google´s blog search.


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Peter Hogenkamp on June 30, 2006  · 

Well, I think Google’s initial success in 2000 was partly because the user interface was so simple compaired to all the AltaVistas with many “features”, but with cluttered interfaces.

When we interview test participants before the actual test, we always ask them: “What makes a new website one that you will visit again?” – Top answer (wording varies): “Simplicity, ease of use, etc.”. Below 10% of answers: Nice graphics. Never heard (at least not by me): Feature richness.


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lodgePodge on June 30, 2006  · 

technorati sucks, when i want a search engine, that all I want, if i want features ill go to myspce, and then kill myself

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Martín Varsavsky on July 2, 2006  · 

Pls don´t kill yourself on my blog, we love life around here….


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Martín Varsavsky on July 3, 2006  · 


To me this resembles the situation with movies, Hollywood Studios vs Independants/Foreign Studios. Most people most of the time watch Hollywood movies, but I find myself watching non Hollywood movies most of the time.


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dasmb on August 19, 2006  · 

I can’t agree with you about youtube’s website — i think it’s a bit crowded, but hardly ugly and there is a lot going on there, functionality wise, especially wrt searching. The content just drives itself…it’s real easy to find what you’re looking for and just as easy to find something you weren’t, but enjoy anyway.

The big problem with youtube is one of quality of video (it is just terrible), and i imagine that problem stems from bandwidth concerns. Vpod videos look nice now, but let’s see how quickly they degrade when they get about a million people attacking their bandwidth.

The other problem with youtube is one of legality of content. There’s a lot of illicit clips on there, and unfortunately those are the ones most users really want to see. As a result, they face the Napster conundrum of popularity through easy of piracy. Vpod will have to face this issue head on, too…if they allow just anybody to post, they’re going to either need a vetting process or have to face potential copyright violations…and if they don’t allow everybody to post, they’re not going to excite the community.

I do think vpod has a chance to succeed but it won’t be easy. It’s going to take a lot of customer service and careful planning. Remember that in the friendster vs myspace battle, the uglier, less functioned site won simply because it was faster.

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