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Friday, June 7, 2013

YouTube Founders Focus on New Video Tools

If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, Twitter should consider itself very flattered.

Wanpai, a new smartphone video recording app available only in Chinese, bears a strong resemblance to Vine, Twitter’s fast-growing service that lets users shoot and post six-second snippets of video.

Perhaps even more flattering is that the Vine clone was created by Avos, the start-up created by the YouTube co-founders Chad Hurley and Steve Chen after they left YouTube. (Google bought YouTube in 2006 and is an investor in Avos.)

In a phone interview on Thursday, Mr. Hurley acknowledged that Vine was “the inspiration” for Wanpai (which he translated from the original Mandarin as “Play Shot”). He said that Avos’s development team in Beijing, which operates with some autonomy from the company’s headquarters in San Mateo, Calif., had developed Wanpai on their own initiative.

“They didn’t think Vine was serving the market,” he said. Vine “wasn’t translated and didn’t work well in China.” (Twitter is blocked by the Chinese government and Vine is tightly integrated into the social networking service.)

Mr. Hurley said Avos’s newest creation, MixBit, to be released in July or August, would be much more original.

Although he wouldn’t divulge many details about the project, which is in private beta testing, Mr. Hurley said MixBit would provide an “intuitive” interface to help people easily create content, much the way YouTube made it easy to post videos to a wide audience.

“What we ended up creating at YouTube is a solution for distribution,” Mr. Hurley said. “What hasn’t been solved yet is the act of creation.”

He said current platforms for creating and sharing images and videos, likeTwitter and Instagram (owned by Facebook), are too focused on self-promotion, which intimidates many people.

MixBit will enter a crowded market. In addition to Vine, which has grown to 13 million users in just four months, Instagram is expected to soon introduce its own quick-video product.

Avos first surfaced publicly in 2011 when it purchased the Delicious social bookmarking service from Yahoo. It has since kept a low profile, working on several projects, including Zeen, an online magazine creation tool that was supposed to go live a year ago but is still stuck in beta.

In contrast to the situation with the Wanpai app, Mr. Hurley said, he is directly involved in MixBit’s development. “This is a tool that I’m going to use,” he said.

That contrasts with a certain video site that he used to run. “Me, personally, I don’t upload video to YouTube,” Mr. Hurley said.