Video Christmas Messages

I've seen two examples of Video IM companies offering "Christmas Video Messages" in the past week. They are both worth commenting about, for opposite reasons.
Written by J.A. Watson, Contributor

I've seen two examples of Video IM companies offering "Christmas Video Messages" in the past week. They are both worth commenting about, for opposite reasons.

TokBox actually has two very nice offers. The first is "Send A Holiday Greeting for Charity", which lets you record a holiday greeting, optionally with one of their background templates, and then send it to people in your TokBox contact list. For each greeting sent this way, TokBox will donate 5 cents to the Child Foundation charity. What could be better than that? You get to have fun sending a message, your friends and family get to have fun watching it, and a charity donation is made in the bargain! They have "templates" for "Holidays" (the "politically correct" term for this season), "Thanksgiving" (doesn't mention if it is U.S. or Canadian Thanksgiving... is there "political correctness" about that?), and New Years, and I suspect that if this is a successful promotion, others will be added. Although you go to the TokBox home page to create the video message, you don't even have to have (or create) a TokBox account, you can simply enter your name and email address without being required to create and account and login. The message is sent by TokBox video mail, which means that the people you send it to can view it in an ordinary web browser, no special client downloads are required, and they don't have to have a TokBox account to receive or view your message. They will be taken to the TokBox web page, which gives them the opportunity to open an account if they don't already have one, but the message comes up right away, and they can view it and move on with no obligation.

The second offer from TokBox is "Send a Video Mail to Santa". It's more oriented toward TokBox members with children; they can record a video to send to Santa, telling him what they want for Christmas. The message will indeed be sent to "Santa Claus" at TokBox, and you have the opportunity to either add other addresses, either email or from your TokBox contact list. The message will also be stored in your TokBox Sent folder, so you can forward it from there to other family members. TokBox says that Santa will also send a reply to the message on Christmas Eve, which I think is a very nice touch.

There is some good thinking, good ideas, and good marketing behind those two promotions. They show you what TokBox can do, they actually use TokBox technology to record, send and view the messages, they encourage and motivate you to use it, and they do the same for those to whom you send the video messages (well, I assume that Santa already knows about TokBox, as do those in your contact list, but you can add other email addresses as well).

The other promotion is Video Cards With Skype. This gives you the opportunity to record a video message in a card and send it to friends. But the recording and sending have nothing to do with Skype itself, as they still have no browser- or flash-based client, nor does the sending, receiving or viewing of the card. The contrast with the TokBox offer is very clear - the only connection between this and Skype is that you are creating free advertising for them. Neither you nor the recipient get to see or try out anything even vaguely related to Skype Video IM technology, having a Skype account is of no use or benefit to either of you, and of course there is no charity benefit to this - no one profits from it other than Skype.

The SkypeVideoCards web page includes a very long, nasty-sounding legalese dissertation which you must agree to, which says things like:

You hereby grant to Skype and its affiliates, a worldwide, perpetual, irrevocable, non-exclusive, royalty-free, sub-licensable and transferable right to (i) use, reproduce, distribute. broadcast, display, perform, copy, create derivative works of, edit, alter, transmit, and publish or otherwise exploit your Submission for any purpose and in any media

Huh? I had to blink my eyes over that one for quite a while... so you are basically creating free potential advertising for Skype, which they then own and can use in any way, shape or form that they see fit, without even notifying you, much less compensating you for its use! But it gets worse:

and (iii) to license and/or sublicense to any third party any of the foregoing rights

So not only can they use it, they can allow anyone else they want to use it!?!?!?! Well, it's easy enough to see what the "Spirit of Christmas" is at Skype.

While I am on a "Bah, Humbug" rant here... I just saw this post from a jouirnalist "down under". He starts out by saying how much he likes Skype, but then mentions that their rate structure for Australia is confusing, and he has tried to contact them to "help" straighten it out, and as yet it has not been fixed, and he hasn't even heard back from them. Well, Tony, welcome to the "real world" of Skype Customer Support - there are essentially no answers, and the very few which do manage to sputter out are so mindless and irrelevant as to be good for nothing other than humor value. It has only been six months or so since the COO of Skype offered me a personal video conference with himself and the Skype Support Manager, so they could explain their "road map" for improving Skype Support to me. Too bad that I didn't accept, so I would know now what it is that they aren't doing...

It appears that the iTWire author is starting to figure out the humor value of Skype bumbling, however. He also includes an example from Skype's web page where they talk about a user who is in the U.S., and wants to call his family in Austalia... but then they show a world map with an arrow going from the west coast of the U.S. to.... Austria! Good job, Skype. It's nice to see that your quality control is still right up there on a par with your customer support.

Now, everyone who wants to make a free promotional video for Skype, and give them unlimited rights to it, your images and your words, for any purpose that they see fit, forever... hurry on over to SkypeVideoCards. Maybe they will make enough money off of you that they can hire one or two more people for "Customer Support"... and, gosh, if it's a big hit, they might even be able to afford to start a Quality Control department?

jw 22/12/2008

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