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If there's a central rule of marketing, it's this: create hype. Make your product seem sexy, useful, interesting, central to the way customers want to live their lives.
Some products actually live up to this. Others, like Shufflr, live up to their stated function but sort of make you wonder why you downloaded it in the first place.
Shufflr by Althea Systems offers to incorporate social functions to your Web-based video viewing. The app, presently designed for the iPhone and iPod touch, ties into Facebook and Twitter, allows you to like, queue, share, and bookmark videos, and it claims to load video recommendations based on your tastes and viewing history.
The Shufflr main screen: a grab bag o' video!
While these are noble ambitions, the end result is less than life-changing. Load the app, create an account, hook it to your Facebook and/or Twitter accounts and you'll be greeted with a menu of random YouTube, Vimeo, and other Web-based videos. But since they're initially presented without descriptions, it feels like a randomized grab bag.
Tap on a video and Shufflr shuffles you over to your device's YouTube app, streaming content in to your heart's content. Once a video has finished playing in the YouTube app, you'll be sent back to Shufflr and offered additional (and still seemingly random) videos to watch. Where the app's social functions are concerned, it's easy enough to tag a video as something you like and have this show up on your Facebook or Twitter feed, recommending it to your friends.
Adorable cat videos? On the Internet? No way.
The app functions well enough, never locking up or crashing during testing under iOS 4.3.4. The downside is that none of this really seems necessary. In spite of the social networking features, Shufflr is performing the same task as that of signing onto YouTube and randomly playing videos. Or just popping open the Facebook or Twitter apps and clicking the YouTube links your friends post.
The bottom line. At this point, there's an ever-growing number of ways to share hilarious cat videos on YouTube with your friends, and Shufflr is just another means of doing this. Even though the app is free, it feels like you can achieve the same entertainment result on your own.
iPhone or iPod touch running iOS 3.0 or later
Free app. Good interface. Solid performance and stability. Hooks in nicely to YouTube app.
App doesn't provide a critical service that randomly watching Web-streaming videos won't do, so it doesn't seem necessary.