Vimeo, probably the best site on the internet to watch artistic short videos, announced an expansion of its lean-back feature called Couch Mode today. The feature, which offers a browsing interface that was initially optimized for Google TV, can now be enjoyed anywhere. Couch Mode makes it easy to move from one video right into the next, without using the traditional website navigation. You can access it from the corner of any page on the site.
Vimeo's Ryan Hefner said in a blog post today that Couch Mode "works great" on iPads and Android tablets. In my testing of the feature today I did not find that to be the case.
In testing Couch Mode, I've often had to hit the pause button and then play again in order for any of the Vimeo videos to load. The navigation pane disappears too quickly, the browsing function doesn't surface much information through the touch interface and worst of all: Couch Mode doesn't include a full-screen option! It looks like full screen, but the browser remains at the top of your iPad. It's nice to be able to go from one video to the next, but the aesthetic cost is too high for me.
Of course YouTube's Leanback doesn't work on an iPad at all.
Probably the best low-friction way to enjoy a continuous flow of videos on an iPad is the app for StumbleUpon, which we reviewed last month. (StumbleUpon for the iPad: Like a Magic Carpet Ride for Your Brain)
If readers know of a better way to do it, please let us know. It could be argued that an effective tablet lean-back video experience is an essential requirement for any real viable online short-form alternative to traditional TV. That's "meaningful" not just for the industry and its commercial interests, but for the greater diversity of video content and perspectives on the world so well exemplified by Vimeo itself.
It would be great to see Vimeo nail a lean-back experience for the iPad. I don't think they've done it yet though.