Telewebber – Watching TV alone together

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I’m proud to say that one of the most brilliantly fun social web apps I’ve seen recently is just making its first steps among the German early adopter’s crowd. Telewebber, a startup based in the middle of South-German nowhere (Bretten, for those who know), brings all those digital nomads together on a platform that makes watching TV a social, entertaining experience even when you’re alone at home or in a hotel room.

On the start screen, users can choose a (real) TV channel, they’re watching and join a chat room very similar to those Web 1.2 users might be familiar with from IRC or ICQ (does anyone use these in Twittertimes anymore?). The action happens in the chat. You’ll see a list of other watchers on the right, there are Mood-o-Meters on the left to signal applause, booing or laughter, and the center screen is dominated by a very fast and very real-time chat that serves as the central hub for communicating about the happenings on TV.

Telewebber started to grab early adopters’ attention almost exclusively via Twitter shortly after Next08 in mid May (where they presented their elevator pitch) by launching, a site designed as a giant campground with a tent for every beta applicant. After signing up, users could let their Twitter followers know they had joined the campers and spread the word. Literally within hours, several hundred had registered, and today, just days after letting the first users in, the number has gone up over a thousand.

Just in time for the first Euro 2008 game of the German team, they started opening doors to users in blocks of 50 to 100. A great way to test platform scalability for traffic, individual events, database robustness etc, and still build more anticipation among those still waiting on the virtual camping ground.

What makes Telewebber such a great platform is the fact that the team has put a whole lotta love into little features that make watching TV with other, dispersed friends good fun. You can take the role of the referee, showing yellow cards, claiming offsides, and initiating La-Olas (nice thing for a ref to do). Also, quotes from TV can be added into the chat live-stream, and spontaneous mini-surveys created. All this creates a lot of interaction and engagement by the viewers/chatters as every chat item can be “digged” by everyone, collecting points that go on each chatters credit. Those items that collect the most acclamations get listed in a separate section as the highlights of the show (left on screen). Plus, commercial breaks can be bridged by competing against other in guessing which ad is on just now. So there’s a bit of creative competition in Telewebber, too. Here’s a video of how live interaction looks like.

Oh, and not to forget Twitter integration from the chat where users can inform followers about their TV show of choice and get them to join the discussion. Making friends in Telewebber is even easier than in Twitter and you can even personalise the look of your own TV community by adding background images and tweaking opacity of windows.

Telewebber has everything: a great idea, love for detail, snappy technology, ease of use, fun features and above all a communication strategy at this early stage that gets a highly engaged crowd buzzing about it and enjoying themselves while watching…football, what else these days? It’s phantastic to see such a project being launched in Germany first, and guess what, internationalisation “is somewhere on the list”, said co-founder Andreas Dittes, he just wouldn’t say when. No worries, Telewebber-Team, you’re up for something special here. Good luck!