A while ago I signed up for the alpha of Qwiki. At that time I had real trouble getting the qwikis to play, but now I’ve had the time to return to the service. In the meanwhile a number of new features have been added, most notable IMO the ability to embed a qwiki on your own site and to suggest improvements to the qwikis. The embed code uses an iframe so I’m afraid I can’t show you one as WordPress.com don’t allow them.
It’s fairly clear that this is still an Alpha though the service is much more stable and consistent now. I’ve tried the Europeana qwiki of course and since the Wikipedia article on Europeana is so outdated and image sparse it wasn’t a very good experience. I suggested some videos and images to improve the Europeana qwiki and it’ll be interesting to see whether the suggested content will appear and how fast!? I’m guessing that user content currently is moderated centrally.
For Art Nouveau though Wikipedia has a great richly illustrated article and so the corresponding qwiki is a very nice experience. There’s a good amount of basic information, beatiful images and many links are provided to related qwikis for those who want to explore beyond the basics.
I’m still not really sure yet about the basic use case!? The voice, though pleasant, starts to grate on you after awhile and in comparison with reading an article on Wikipedia (all Qwiki topics are near directly sourced from there) I find the information input painfully slow. But maybe that’s just me not being a very visual person? I’m very much a reader.
Also, I think the use case also changes quite alot in a mobile scenario. Imagine being for example at a museum exhibition that lacks contextual information and doesn’t provide a mobile guide!? I think I could imagine pulling out my smart mobile device of choice and play some qwikis! The musuem could help by putting up some proper QR-codes. I’d advise using your ear-plugs though or the other visitors will lynch you! This use case would be even more interesting when Qwiki offers an API and other services to create qwikis of your own.
According to their blog and an answer on Quora there are plans to allow users to create their own qwikis (maybe through an API and widgets), apps for the iPhone and the iPad (no Android love?) and they are looking for more publishers who would like to get their data into a qwiki or two. As will all new services they’ll struggle to find a business model and monetize. Perhaps a freemium model with ads in the free version and an add-free subscription version? And if they grow big they could charge content providers and have a freemium API-service as well. Another observation is that if they grow big they’ll have to find a crowdsourced model of moderating content suggestions!
To summarise, I think Qwiki has the potential to provide a good service in a niche market. It’s certainly not a Google killer then again it’s only media who launches those…