Spreecast moves to smartphones as social video chat gains ground

Spreecast launched in 2011 as a more public way to have watercooler conversations. Now the social video platform is going mobile.

Social video site Spreecast is taking its hybrid of live streams and interactive conversations to smartphones with a pair of apps released Thursday for iOS and Android.

The once desktop-only Spreecast launched in 2011 as a forum for users to have public conversations with each other. Unlike video platforms like Skype, which let users chat privately, or live streaming sites like uStream or Justin.tv, which let you watch live events, Spreecast is more like a 1960s party line updated for the 21st century.

How it works: Users set up a channel and pick a topic to discuss. People can browse the list of channels and request to join in an interesting video conversation. That request must be approved by the conversation's host, or they can participate in the chatroom alongside the video. Spreecast can host up to four simultaneous streams, so four people can appear on the feed at once. You don't have to download a client or install any software; Spreecast is all online. Or it has been, until now.

Who it's for: News organizations like the Wall Street Journal andLos Angeles Times and professional broadcasters like Scott Baker are already using Spreecast to do one-hour shows or host journalist chats on current events. But anyone can use Spreecast, which is part of its appeal.

Many of its regular users aren't even registered, Spreecast CEO Jeff Fluhr says. Fluhr declined to disclose how many people have signed up, but said audience is growing and a "significant number" of people are trying to access Spreecast on their smartphones.

There are Web conferencing services, private video platforms, and streaming sites galore, but there are few sites that let you watch other conversations and jump in, if you want. If you miss a chat, the site archives all conversations for future playback.

"[People] are having public forum conversations; it's like the future of the watercooler," says Fluhr, who also founded ticket-selling site StubHub. "You might gather around and talk about a game that happened last night or a current event like the bombings in Boston or the new pope. That's the kind of conversation you can find on Spreecast every day."

That democratization of current events is now going mobile. Spreecast's mobile users will be able to watch and chat along with broadcasts, and a future version of the app will in a few months let viewers join in on camera.

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