With all the attention that Twitter’s new video service Vine is getting, it seems that internet video in general is poised for an evolution. This week, the crowd-subtitling platform Amara.org launched a free service that allows any personal YouTube creator to invite viewers to subtitle their videos and sync the subtitles to their YouTube account.
Amara is no stranger to video subtitling. They already give individuals, communities and larger organizations the (free and open source) tools they need to make the work of subtitling and translating video simpler, more appealing and more collaborative. By adding YouTube to their arsenal, video creators can help make their content more accessible to the masses.
Amara is so much more than subtitling, it’s more about crowdsourcing and called the "Wikipedia of Subtitles" because of the way that it allows videos to be subtitled by volunteers. Translation services are hard and too expensive for general web and print collateral — never mind video. Besides, on YouTube alone there are close to 3 billion videos. Like the encyclopedia before it, it’s no small feat to get all that information documented. Additionally, most of the videos on YouTube are not produced by large companies, but rather by individuals or small businesses who simply want to share something cool with the world.
The Wisdom of the Social Crowd
How can you trust the quality of the translation? Similar questions were asked about Wikipedia and as we all know, Wikipedia’s accuracy is not only transparent but relatively accurate. Just as a majority of work will be done by a small, but dedicated group, crowdsourcing the translation of video will probably work the same way. Amara may want to learn from Wikipedia’s success and challenges as they begin to evolve their platform and rely on their users for support.
Nevertheless, Amara has the power to extend the life of video beyond one’s target audience. Social media platforms, like YouTube have become very popular in many countries, across all languages, but at the risk of becoming siloed. Facebook already provides the ability to translate comments and posts, so it makes sense that the same can be provided for video. By working to caption as many videos as they can, while giving users a viable platform to subtitle their own videos, the social web is evolving into a global community, more than ever before.