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Fantasy interactive (Fi), a creative services firm based in New York and Stockholm that boasts a client list full of big names like Porsche, Nintendo, Nordstrom, and National Geographic, today flipped the switch on the alpha version of Kontain, a media-sharing site aimed at people who don't have the patience or time to cut through the clutter of MySpace, Facebook, Flickr, or YouTube merely to share photos, videos, or other media--and otherwise "contain" their lives online (get it?). Kontain's target audience is not made up of hard-core bloggers or HTML jockeys who have built their personal websites using open-source tools such as Drupal or others, say Fi execs. " We're after my parents," says Fi founder, CEO, and Creative Director David Martin, a jetski-addicted Irishman who first conceived the idea for a site like Kontain back in 2000.
You can "heart" something, email it, or view it in full-screen mode.
Although he's quick to commend MySpace and Facebook for the impact they've made on the Web and popular culture, Martin says, "it makes us sick that the world has to put up with [both sites' unsophisticated design]. It takes us back to 1986."
Martin's goal with Kontain is more sweeping than just launching a site that allows anyone to post and share photos and videos easily and create good-looking photo and video blogs.
"I'm a designer," Martin says, adding that, like any product, service, or even an interactive campaign, a media-sharing site "should be beautiful from the beginning, or it shouldn't be released." Before he really used the Internet back in the mid-90s, Martin says, he had a vision of what it should be like -- a well-designed, easy-to-use virtual space to share and find information. When he discovered the reality of the early World Wide Web, though, that fantasy came crashing to Earth.
Viewing videos in full-screen mode on Kontain is a bit more satisfying than the tiny video window you get on YouTube. This shot is from one of David Martin's own videos chronicling his adventures on one of two Seadoo jetskis, which he records with a digital videocam mounted to a pole behind him.
Martin's disappointment with the way the Internet looked back then might seem a bit cynical considering its breakthrough nature at the time. But where would we be today if Apple decided not to perfect personal computing with OS X and the Mac -- or mobile communications with the iPhone, for that matter?
Although many if not most of the creative folks at Fi use Macs, Martin says, " I was never an Apple fan until the iPhone and MacBook Air came out."
But having been won over by his Apple gear's perfect combination of good looks and ease of use, he says, he wouldn't part with his MacBook or iPhone except under extreme duress.
As of this posting, the content on Kontain seems mostly limited to photo and video blogs created by folks clearly employed by or friends of Fi. But there's interesting stuff here, like stills from an open-source digital film created under the Creative Commons license called an Elephant's Dream.
"We've invested millions of dollars out of our own pocket and out of passion," Martin says of Kontain, which is staffed by 18 New York employees of Fi, but will also become its own venture as Kontain LLC. "We don't care initially if it doesn't make any money," Martin says when asked about the site's business model. Bold words for the CEO of a tech-oriented creative services firm in a tight business climate, to be sure, but Martin does not hesitate to talk in broad strokes.
"We're trying to change the Internet," he says.
While cautious about jinxing Kontain's alpha launch or saying something on the record that might haunt him later, Martin posits that if Apple had an interactive services group, he reckons Kontain looks a lot like the media-sharing site that Apple might build--you know, if Apple were to build such a thing.
Kontain is and will likely remain a free service, like Facebook and MySpace. Martin says users will be allowed 250MB of storage space initially--100MB more than the max that Flickr allows--but if it's determined that a "super user" is posting worthwhile content, that user might be given more space to, er, contain his or her digital life.
New features, such as high-res photos, multiple users of the same site, or Kontainer, embeddable Kontainers, and other additions will be rolled out regularly during the site's alpha phase, which Martin expects to last four months or so, depending on user feedback and site development. That said, once they make the leap from alpha to beta, they don't plan to leave Kontain in beta forever, a la Google. So if you're the type who doesn't like to buy a car in its first model year, or if you still worry that this whole Internet thing is a passing fad, Martin says that although Kontain will always be an "adaptive" work in progress, the site should become final six to seven months from today.
Rest assured that Fi and the Kontain team, particularly Martin, won't be satisfied with it being just OK.
"Right now, out of 10 it's a 1," Martin says. "We believe this is the beginning for us. The goal is to raise our standards and move the Internet forward."
And if it doesn't work, he's always got his Seadoo jetskis and New York City's public waterways.