5 Reasons 12seconds.tv Isn’t Popular

I’ve been using the site 12seconds.tv a bit these days, now that I have a webcam on my computer. It’s funny, the site has a great hook: Leave bite-sized posts, like you do on Twitter only with video instead of text, and you’re done.

Sounds like a natural, doesn’t it? People like video, hate reading, and it’s short, like Twitter and Facebook wall posts. What’s not to love here? Why isn’t this place just blowing up with people? It certainly got a lot of press back when it was launched. It just never took off. And I think I know why.

1. People are self-conscious. I think the main reason 12seconds.tv hasn’t taken off the way it should have is most people don’t like the way they look on camera. And the way a desktop cam makes anyone look, I don’t blame them. I myself am incredibly attractive – but you wouldn’t know it by viewing one of my 12seconds.tv posts. Here let me show you.

Oh, wait…

2. I can’t show you my 12seconds.tv posts.

Update: I have been contacted by people at 12seconds.tv, as you can read in the comments below. As I figured, there was a bit more to their embedding code than simply copying and pasting it in – you must select the, “Switch to non iFrame embed for MySpace” link above the embedding code. While neither code given works for me on WordPress or Livejournal, the two platforms I use most, it does work on Tumblr and Blogger. In short, their embedding code does work, unless it doesn’t.

12erator: What I Looked Like As a Baby on 12seconds.tv

12erator: What I Looked Like As a Baby on 12seconds.tv

This is how WordPress views both versions of code. Unfortunately, either way, it does not post. As I mentioned in the earlier version of this, I am sure there is a way to make this work – but if it doesn’t work easily and the first time out, people won’t bother. This goes back to my initial point: If this can’t be easily done with 12seconds, but can with other video services, people will use those other services instead.

3. I can only post 12 seconds worth of video. I know this is the site’s whole reason for being, but it really is annoying to only get 12 seconds with which to share something. To help users get around the problem of finding something to say, 12seconds offers random questions for users to answer. I’ll admit, this isn’t a bad idea, it does help. And certainly it’s something Twitter doesn’t do: Give you ideas for posting something. Then again, Twitter doesn’t need to give users ideas for posts.

The time limit becomes really annoying if you do find something worth sharing. There are many videos on the site recorded with someone’s iPhone where the clip cuts off in the middle. So even if you do manage to find something good to share, it had better not run an epic length of 13 seconds.

4. Follower Syncing with Twitter. This is something you can shut off in the settings, but I’m going to bitch about it anyway. When you connect your Twitter account to 12seconds so you can cross post videos once you’ve recorded them, 12seconds will also offer to check your Twitter contacts to see who else is on the site. Fair enough, that’s pretty standard stuff these days.

A few days later, I noticed that a lot of the people I was connected to on 12seconds were almost all inactive on the site – some had never even posted a first video. (This is what led me to this post, by the way. A lot of my Tweets are pretty hip cats, and if this was something worth doing, they really would have been doing it by now.) So I unfollow all of them. And wouldn’t you know it, I’m following them all again the next day. Why would 12seconds want to auto sync all of my followers? I understand checking once, but doing it constantly is a further reminder that Twitter has an active community (because they know I keep gaining friends there) and 12seconds has next to none. (Or else they wouldn’t need to keep checking.)

5. None of us are that interesting. Loren Feldman of 1938 Media is about the funniest “Internet Celebrity” out there, and his videos with puppets are hysterical. If blogging, Mob Wars, RSS feeds or Shel Israel actually were mainstream, he would be working for Saturday Night Live right now. He is the only person I can think of who could regularly post anything I would want to see.

After him there’s the rest of us, and we aren’t very funny. Or interesting. Less so since roughly 90% of us post from these God-awful webcams. Not that the other 10% posting from their iPhones are sharing anything of much value either.

To be fair, the problem of not being terribly interesting or entertaining goes beyond 12seconds. YouTube currently warehouses thousands of terabytes of stupid. There are one or two things on there worth catching, but each one sits upon a large pile of unwatchable footage. Without any popularity, 12seconds doesn’t have any community, no mass of people trying and failing, only to finally post something really good and worth sharing.

So, despite having solid technology and a good premise, I don’t know that anything can be done to make this site more interesting to the average “life streamer.” I honestly congratulate them for openly appealing to the short attention span in all of us, but somehow the 140 character limitation of text posting doesn’t work the same way with video.


  1. so true… regardless of the endless amounts of shit flowing through my head every minute… I don’t see much of it being relevant or needed by anyone really… I try to be active and post video stuff online but I suffer from the I look like ass online thing haha… typically don’t care but I agree with the post… 12seconds is kinda lame like that

  2. Hey, this is David, I work with the guys at 12seconds. In regards to point number 2, you actually can embed any video you want. Each video gets it’s own unique page (click on the title of a video.) On a given video’s page, you should find embed code on the right hand side.

    In regards to the time limitation, I would (politely) challenge your assertion. We stand by the limitation, we think the limitation is part of what makes 12seconds fun and different from every other video site. I’d be happy to discuss it more if you like – feel free to email me: david@12seconds.tv

  3. Hey,

    I’m Jacob – one of the Founders and developers of 12seconds and we came across your blog post and wanted to respond to a few things.

    First — thanks for your engagement and your review. We often get a lot of people who say things, both positive and negative, about the the site without ever really using it and I can really tell that all of your comments come from really taking a chance to use and evaluate the site and we really appreciate that.

    I’ll try and respond to each of your points as best I can.

    1. People are definitly self conscious.. There’s no doubt about it. I think that as time goes on, people will get more used to having their video on the internet, but just like photos, this might take a while and we’ll always have a percentage of people who will simply never feel comfortable with it and that’s to be expected. We have added privacy features and we’ll be coming out with some new apps and features in the coming weeks that deal with more user-to-user/private messaging instead of public broadcasting and we think that’s going to help a lot in this respect.

    2. We do provide embed codes for every video. If you click on any video title, you’ll be taken to that video’s page where we have a full link, a tiny12 link, and an embed code that you can add into most sites. If for some reason that code doesn’t work (it uses iFrame’s) there’s a button on top that switches the embed code to a more standard version that should work anywhere. Have you never visited a single video page or did you just miss seeing that? We’re always looking to improve so if there’s a reason why you didn’t notice it, we want to know and to make that more apparent. We kept the embed code off of your main timeline feed because it was already pretty busy there and we figured users would go to the single video page to grab an embed code.

    3. The limit is an important distinction for sure. Our goal is to make it super simple to post video and part of that is lowering barriers both for creation and consumption. With a 12 second limit, videos are easy to create and upload, they post quickly, and they are super easy to consume by anyone on any platform due to the small size and length. The limit certainly isn’t for everyone and for every use, but it’s something we do feel enhances the site more than it detracts.

    4. The feature is called Follow “Sync”.. and we thought that was fairly clear. It syncs your followers so you no longer manage it on 12seconds, but instead, it just pulls from Twitter. The goal is that whenever you follow someone new on Twitter, you know that we’ll catch that and update your 12 followers as well. So, we check when you log in, up to once every 24 hours if there’s new people. To sync once, you’d check it off, and then uncheck it to stop syncing in the future. As you said, video isn’t for everyone and it’s not surprising for most sites to have far more users who consume content that those that actually create.

    5. I’d just say look at Twitter for this – it’s far less about what people are saying in our case and more with who they are. I follow lots of personal friends and family and it’s nice to keep up with the happenings in their lives and that’s interesting to me, though it likely isn’t to someone who doesn’t know them. The trick is to follow people you care about and that are interesting to you.. we know this is harder now as we’re still a small site, but as we grow, this will become easier.

    Anyway, thanks for your comments and we hope that you and anyone else who reads this feels free to contact us if you have any suggestions or comments. We’re always looking for feedback so we can improve.

    Jacob Knobel

  4. Jacob and David, thank you for your responses. It is nice to know you are listening for reviews of your product, and are willing to give constructive responses.

    First, on the subject of th embedding code, I have updated that point after reading your comments. It still does not work on WordPress apparently, iFrame or no. But I admit this isn’t necessarily the fault of your technology.

    As to everything else, though, I must stand by what I say – even if it does sound a bit snarkier in the post. You appear to be chasing Twitter’s tail in many ways – from syncing contacts with them to limited posts (12 seconds for 140 characters.)

    While my opening may have sounded flippant, I absolutely believe that 12seconds is a great idea on paper, and should be wildly popular.

    For whatever reason, though, it has not taken off, and this was my attempt to determine why. There may be some 6th or 7th reason that explains why the site is languishing. If so, I hope you are able to determine what it is, and your site realizes the potential everyone thought it had last year.

    I wish you the best of luck in this.

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