AOL Tests Video Search with Web Player

In an extension of its strategy to build an audience on the open Web, America Online has rolled out a stealth release of its new Video Search product and an accompanying inline video player, BetaNews has learned.

AOL Video Search corrals together SingingFish's index of more than 1.5 million video assets from its partners and the Web with AOL's vault of on-demand content and independent RSS feeds.

At its core, AOL Video Search is based upon its SingingFish media search engine, which provides the backend service. In order to return relevant search results, the SingingFish engine cross references metadata encoded in streams with its own rules and annotations from third party databases.

In essence, metadata is superseded by trusted data sources whenever possible. AOL is attempting to gopher around deficient metadata by using speech-to-text processing, which generates greater metadata and provides users with the capability to search within the body of the video.

AOL has also licensed technology from Onstream Media to index closed captioning subtitles from television broadcasts.

AOL's Vice President of Audience Product Management, Alex Blum, told BetaNews that this combined approach was, "More comprehensive than Singingfish, Google, Yahoo! or anybody else that's out there."

Like AOL, Google also archives the closed captioning data from television programming, while Yahoo takes a different approach and scours the surrounding text around video links as well as the stream's metadata.

Drawing on its existing strength as a media company, AOL is leveraging its amassed archive of over 15,000 originally produced videos -- previously only available to paying access subscribers – to seed the service and thus distinguish itself from the competition.

Videos will be played within an inline Web-based media player called "Video Player 3.0." Video Player is loosely fabricated out of the plumbing of its standalone AOL Media Player (AMP) client software.

A spokesperson told BetaNews that the player will provide a more "holistic" playback experience by supporting most media formats and enabling the playback directly from search results without the need to install any additional codecs onto a user's computer.

More advanced features are personalized playlists, a search history and baked-in browsing capabilities for the user to discover for more videos from within the player itself. Search results are displayed juxtaposition to motion thumbnails, providing users with a preview of each clip. Contextual advertisements will be placed alongside the actual video within Video Player.

A specialized version of the player will go outside of beta into production for AOL Music's worldwide Live 8 broadcast.

The player will be standardized across AOL's network of Web brands including AOL.com, AOL Instant Messenger (AIM) and Netscape. In a related topic, BetaNews has learned that AOL will launch a video "hub" later this summer at its AOL.com portal Web site to centralize its media properties on the Web.

Earlier this week, Google publicly unveiled its own video search product and the Google Video Viewer browser plug-in for Firefox and Internet Explorer. Google Video Viewer plays back video captures from more than 20 TV stations that have partnered with Google.

AOL Video Search may be found at the AOL.com beta Web site. The videos require Microsoft Internet Explorer at this time with support for alternate browsers in development.

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