Can Video Search Engines Find What You Want?

    by Mark Glaser
    January 23, 2006

    i-b3a4e9a39fb84945fa09498f44be8209-Google video search.JPG
    Video search engines are based on a simple premise: Type in a few key words, and voila! you can see the video you have described. The problem is that the main video search engines haven’t figured out how to match key words to content, and they don’t have all the commercial and amateur video you might want. In other words, if Google Video doesn’t have a deal with ABC, then you couldn’t search for video from an old “ABC Monday Night Football” airing.

    So far, most video search engines will give you spotty results for what you want. You might get nothing, or you might get unrelated video. Worse yet, you might have to use a different web browser to view the video, or install special software as with America Online’s video search.

    I decided to try out some of the video search engines, and wanted to see if any of them would show me video from the 2004 Summer Olympics in Athens. So I simply typed “2004 summer olympics” (without the quotation marks) into a few video search engines, and had pretty poor results. Blinkx gave me the most results, but nothing from the 2004 games. There were many more results for the Special Olympics, as well as for the upcoming 2006 Winter Olympics.


    Google Video had a video teaser from the CBC in Canada, but it costs 99 cents to view. There’s a free clip about an Army soldier who was training to make the U.S. team for the 2004 games, but it’s only audio with no video. (The screen shot above is taken from that report.)

    Yahoo Video was clogged up with various advertisements that ran during the 2004 Olympics. That is, the search results brought up videos showing the advertisements — they were not ads that ran on Yahoo’s pages. I had no luck whatsoever with MSN Video, which requires Internet Explorer to use.

    Probably the closest I got to actual Olympic footage from 2004 was a search I did on AOL Video, which brought up a video called “Olympic Insider: Dominique Dawes,” which looked like an explanatory video rather than actual clips from the games themselves. But when I clicked on the search result, a box popped up asking for my AOL Screen Name. After registering for a screen name, I also had to install a special video player from AOL. And after all that, I tried to watch the video and it never showed up.


    Now maybe I’m searching for something that’s squarely in the hands of NBC, which has U.S. rights to those Olympics Games. Or maybe this is an event that happened too far in the past. This is where you all come in. I ask that you try doing your own search for video using these services, and others I haven’t mentioned, and report back to us on your results. You can either use the Feedback page, which goes directly to my email in-box, or you can report back in the Comments below.

    Next week, I’ll do a summary of what you found, and credit you for your work. The idea here is that I don’t have all the answers, nor does any one of us, but together, perhaps, we can find the strengths and weaknesses of video search engines.

    Tagged: google video olympics video

    7 responses to “Can Video Search Engines Find What You Want?”

    1. Ben says:

      I think the search for video goes beyond what the big search engines can provide us. With the advent of Tivo well before Google Video, many people could, and have, simply installed larger hardrives on their DVRs and begun assembling their very own database of video. Since Tivo is not tied to any broadcast networks or cable channels via exclusivity contracts, I could see users programming their DVR to scour every station for reruns of a particular event. Given the nature of ESPN Classic, OLN, and other sports channels it’s quite possible that spots about the 2004 Olympics could very well be found, even if it isn’t the official NBC Olympic coverage.

      Perhaps it’s a bad example, given NBC’s lock on the events, but the practicallity of letting Tivo doing the search for you from a much larger database makes a lot more sense than looking on your own, especially given the results you found. Imagine now a school with it’s own Tivo, recording video daily for use in the classroom. Granted, current copyright law states it must be deleted within 45 days under the fair use guidelines. However, within those 45 days, how much more content could one Tivo bring in from a number of sources rather than the network-tied search engines? Now give the school 3 or 4 Tivos, each searching for videos in a particular content area. Every day that older videos that have reached the age of 45 days are wiped, newer videos can be found on those topics.

    2. Jake says:

      If search engines cannot bridge the exclusivity gap that Tivo has already passed, then the search process Tivo uses may become the next most competitive ratings tool in TV. Networks will load individual show listings in the electronic program guides with search terms (tags, etc.) to make sure a consumers can find their show. No more scrolling through the listings — just use tags to search the entire month, record, and watch. Flickr video, anyone?

    3. baker says:

      The lack of Olympics video coverage online is, most likely, a simple rights issue. How long did NBC have rights to air competition footage? Did they acquire the rights to archive and stream their coverage online? If so, for how long? the IOC is no different than the NFL, MLB, or NBA when it comes to protecting and securing rights to competition footage on any medium.

      The fact that your search returned bogus clips (ads and explanatory video) is a problem that anyone who’s ever used a peer-to-peer program (e.g. Kazaa) is all too familiar with. When you allow the general public to categorize, describe and post media, the “World Record 100 Meter Sprint” video clip you find online can turn out to be some 15 year old running headfirst into a tool shed, or an ad for a cell phone. Ultimately, it becomes important to authenticate video and validate the associated metadata, especially when the bulk of it is user-generated.

      So, how can we validate online video, ensuring that the clip is properly represented? There are services which make video searchable by speech to text; transcribing the audio from a video segment and using the transcription to catalog and categorize the video itself. Other companies are trying to make the moving images themselves recognizable and indexed for search — but can software determine the real George Bush from a Bush impersonator? I doubt it.

      Furthermore, with so many proprietary video players and code conventions to launch video, it’s nearly impossible to link directly to a video from any of the major content providers, even if it *is* categorized and indexed appropriately.

      Ultimately, licensed video content with rights assured for online broadcast from major content providers will be categorized and indexed entirely separate from the general public’s video library. This is the only way that we can guarantee video search quality. Online sites will need to work with the Yahoo!s, Googles, and Blinxx of the world to make sure there content is crawled and indexed according to their specifications — MRSS seems to be the dominating format, to date. Of course, this means that all indexed video is on a level playing field, so how will search returns be displayed if the video search engine is unable to determine which clips are most popular (streaming stats are tightly held by the content provider)? Will they be listed by most-recently uploaded or by how much the content provider is willing to pay to have their video at the top of the list? After all, content providers have pre-roll to sell and you can’t grow ad inventory when you keep appearing at the bottom of the search results heap.

    4. Marv says:

      take a look at http://www.youtube.com/. You’ll find plenty

    5. James says:

      Strmz.com delivers Olympics video search results from a variety of TV stations, networks, and a handful of video blogs/podcasts covering the games (i.e., Newsweek, NBC5 Chicago):


    6. I have the same problem with CEO videos. I have used the regular Google search engine to find “CEO video blog” items, with little luck.

      I think all CEOs should embed a video welcome with frequent updates, in their blog or web site.

      The video humanizes, makes you feel so much closer to the presenter.

      But it is very difficult to find any directory of available video of CEOs.

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