Home VoiceThread: A Half-Baked Media Annotation Service That Could Work, Someday

VoiceThread: A Half-Baked Media Annotation Service That Could Work, Someday

VoiceThread is the kind of application that your parents or grandparents might like. It’s an interesting annotation system for photos and video. The company behind it recommends you use it to discuss your memories. I wouldn’t recommend using it for much yet, though.

The gist of VoiceThread is this: you can upload photos and videos, leave voice or text comments on individual items in a slideshow and draw on the images. It’s all in Flash. It’s very simple, but the interface looks nice and I’m sure there’s market demand for this kind of application. I don’t know how many companies have started building something like this, but VoiceThread should finish the job – it’s not done yet, in this case at least.

The Problems

Here comes the bad news. Upload took me forever, long enough that I was pretty sure the site was broken. Long enough that I will never use it again and I was soured on the whole experience – but maybe it will work for you. That was for photos, I didn’t have the patience to try uploading videos. Hopefully the developers will be able to fix it. Eventually it seems my images did upload but it took probably 15 minutes.

There’s no embeddable player, the line drawings fade too fast to do anything with, it’s awkward to use. The link for people to pay $29.95 a year for a pro-account should be taken down right away. (Update: The VoiceThread founder says that much of what I say here is inaccurate. See comments below for testimony from happy customers and points of contention by the founder. This was my experience using the app and that’s what I’m going to write based on. That’s the risk you take asking for a review.)

Despite the problems, VoiceThread could be a nice little application. One of the problems with things like this is that all the work you put into it – or all the work your poor grandma puts into learning how to use it and then narrating over all the old photos you uploaded for her, can’t be exported to the desktop and saved. Given the longevity issues of some startups like this, VoiceThread might not even end up being around longer than…well, let’s not make any more grandma jokes.

In the end, VoiceThread looks like a half-baked, “light-weight” web app with a good designer and some potential. That’s more than can be said about a lot of things these days; if your family doesn’t want to use something more powerful, for which all of this is just a feature – then VoiceThread could be just what you’re looking for, once it works better.

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