The most surprising thing about the jet-powered ascent of video sharing app Socialcam is that it took this long.
Consider: YouTube is huge. Facebook is huge. Instagram is huge and currently swimming in an ocean of Facebook dollars. (Zuckerbucks?)
So a mobile app that combines the signature features of each of these social heavyweights absolutely had to take off. In fact, it was so obvious that we should all take a moment here and shake our heads disapprovingly at ourselves for not coming up with the idea first. Way to go, us.
But the team that did come up with Socialcam (led by the guys behind live video site Justin.tv) have so far attracted north of 20 million users and find themselves today with the most popular free app in the iTunes store. A lofty perch that's both prestigious and, occasionally, lucrative. Remember 'Draw Something'? They held that spot for a long time. That was $180 million ago.
Socialcam provides users a quick way to record, edit and share videos. Some people refer to it as Instagram for videos. And one look at some of the sepia-washed, over-effected videos being produced with the app would seem to confirm the comparison.
We should point out here that rival video sharing app Viddy holds the number three spot on iTunes, has about 15 million users, a roughly $350 million valuation and counts Mark Zuckerberg as a customer. Among other minor differences, the biggest difference between the two services is that Viddy aims to keep things short with a 15-second limit on videos. Socialcam videos have no time limit. Which is why you can watch three solid minutes of nonstop bagpipe action.
Socialcam is available for free on iPhones and Android and syncs with a number of major social network sites, so you can record whatever you want and distribute it nearly instantly. There's a chance to add all those fun, schmancy, artsy filters plus some music to all your videos too.
And while we it's always good to exercise a little judgment about what you film and toss out there for the entire world to pass judgment on and/or enjoy, with Socialcam (and Viddy) you also have be careful about what you choose to watch.
Because like so many other popular apps and all those social readers out there, if you watch a Socialcam video on Facebook, every one of your "friends" could potentially know about it. This is actually how so many of us probably first became aware of the app; all those notices in your News Feed that so-and-so from your high school calculus class just watched a video on Socialcam.
You can't view Socialcam vids on Facebook without agreeing to download and install the app. And in agreeing to do so, you give the app permission to post to your Timeline (read: broadcast to your entire virtual social circle) which videos you watched or shared. It's called frictionless sharing, but around here we just like to refer to it as a great reason not to watch anything titled 'Husband gets a big surprise!'
And for all the big download numbers Socialcam (and Viddy) can now suddenly boast, this Facebook part is most important because that's the platform on which most people will view these videos -- not on their native apps.
If you're making the effort to record (and edit, and add filters, and add title screens and a soundtrack) and share a video in the first place, you probably want it to be seen. And Facebook still remains the best place to find the most eyeballs. Socialcam does offer several privacy settings and users can choose whether to keep their videos private, share them with friends, or open them up entirely to the public.
Are you among the 35+ million people who have downloaded Socialcam or Viddy so far? Let us know in the comments what you like or dislike about the apps and if you think video sharing can become as big as photo sharing.