Home Before YouTube Annotations: Nico Nico Douga and the Simulation of Real Time

Before YouTube Annotations: Nico Nico Douga and the Simulation of Real Time

YouTube announced today that users will now be able to put text annotations over particular points in any video. It’s a neat idea, but not a new one. Any number of other services have allowed flash overlays to be set up on top of videos. The best example in the world, though, is Nico Nico Douga from Japan.

If YouTube users want to see the high-end of the fun spectrum in video annotation, they should check out Nico Nico Douga.

YouTube itself has no doubt seen the site, as the Japanese company originally just put overlays on top of embedded YouTube videos – until it got so popular that YouTube shut down their access. The reason why Nico Nico Douga is so popular is something worth looking at if you’re trying to create excitement on the web yourself.

Unfortunately, you can’t use the site without registering and registering is hard if you don’t know Japanese. Thanks to Google Translate we were able to register and this is what we saw.

How Nico Nico Douga Works

After a mandatory account registration, Nico Nico Douga users can watch any of countless videos on the site and participate in conversations literally on top of them. A simple chat bar lets you shoot a message out onto the video at the moment you press post. The text zips across the video player and is gone, but is surrounded by messages that other users have sent at the same point in time.

The chat on top of the video is asynchronous, but a sidebar also displays the most absolutely new messages no matter where they are in the video. The end result is a fast paced conversation, sometimes with people watching a video at the same time as you but always in such a manner that it feels that way.

Nico Nico Douga makes about $1 million each month from premium subscriptions costing 500 Yen (about $5 USD). Premium subscribers pay to have their messages stay on the video after others expire and to be able to post in more colors, sizes and fonts.

You can’t embed Nico Nico Douga videos offsite, but here’s a screencap of one below.

Simulated Real Time

We’ve written here lately about the growing importance of real time communication and access to information online. The chorus of people calling on FriendFeed to add XMPP functionality for immediate updates is getting louder, as well.

We would argue though, that for any vendor online there is a real opportunity in simulated real time. In the case of Nico Nico Douga, the conversations feel like they are real time because of the way the user experience is architected. In fact, in some ways they are better than real time because only so many people are watching the same video at any given time.

Compare this to the way that Viddler from the US lets people add comments to videos. That’s not nearly as exciting because they are not an integral part of the user experience. They are not intrusive either, but Nico comments can be turned off with a click.

Kyte used to put chat over the top of videos (it appears they don’t any more) but those conversations weren’t tied to particular moments in a video.

The Future of YouTube Annotation?

Perhaps the point is that Nico Nico Douga plays with temporal elements in a particularly appealing way. It may not always be real-time, but perhaps that’s not literally what we as users want in all cases.

Will YouTube Annotations allow for temporal play? At least on the part of the video publisher they seem to do so. The next logical step would be to allow viewers to join in the fun as well. Nico Nico Douga isn’t standing still either though, most recently launching a feature that lets users create their own cartoon newscasts with sophisticated editing and annotation.

If the future of sites like Nico Nico Douga is of interest to you, check out what Mr. Ryou Shimizu, developer of the site, is doing now with his new company Ubiquitous Entertainment Inc. (Google translation into English).

A demonstration of YouTube annotations, from David Rodriguez of StuffWeLike.com

About ReadWrite’s Editorial Process

The ReadWrite Editorial policy involves closely monitoring the tech industry for major developments, new product launches, AI breakthroughs, video game releases and other newsworthy events. Editors assign relevant stories to staff writers or freelance contributors with expertise in each particular topic area. Before publication, articles go through a rigorous round of editing for accuracy, clarity, and to ensure adherence to ReadWrite's style guidelines.

Get the biggest tech headlines of the day delivered to your inbox

    By signing up, you agree to our Terms and Privacy Policy. Unsubscribe anytime.

    Tech News

    Explore the latest in tech with our Tech News. We cut through the noise for concise, relevant updates, keeping you informed about the rapidly evolving tech landscape with curated content that separates signal from noise.

    In-Depth Tech Stories

    Explore tech impact in In-Depth Stories. Narrative data journalism offers comprehensive analyses, revealing stories behind data. Understand industry trends for a deeper perspective on tech's intricate relationships with society.

    Expert Reviews

    Empower decisions with Expert Reviews, merging industry expertise and insightful analysis. Delve into tech intricacies, get the best deals, and stay ahead with our trustworthy guide to navigating the ever-changing tech market.