stealing_1

Many social tools turn every link, photo, and video we share into a unit of self-expression. Our names and photos accompany everything we share to Facebook, every missive we send to Twitter, and every video we upload to Instagram, Vine, or YouTube. We are, to co-opt a culinary truism, what we share.

But what if the things we share were separated from our identities? Would that allow us to share and engage with the Web’s miscellanies based on their own merit instead of who shared them, or would things simply become frustrating and convoluted? That’s what MixBit, a new video-sharing service from YouTube co-founders Steve Chen and Chad Hurley, might find out.

Videos shared to MixBit are not connected to a person or place. There are no usernames or profile pictures — the only things associated with a video are the title and hashtags that accompany it. Users are free to mix and match “clips” from different videos to create their own cinema-graphic masterpieces, allowing MixBit to become what the New York Times calls a system that’s “all about sharing, commune-style.”

The service is reminiscent of Potluck, a link-sharing service from Branch Media that debuted in June. Potluck, like MixBit, is trying to make sharing less about the people and more about the content. There’s no way of knowing who shared a link on Potluck without viewing the page itself, making the service less identity-focused than Facebook or Twitter but more social than email or instant messaging services.

MixBit is more dogmatic about the content-identity split, however. Potluck allows users to like and comment on links shared to its service — MixBit doesn’t currently allow any communication between members. The only thing users can do on the site is watch others’ videos, collect clips to create their own videos, and then share the results to other social networks. That’s it.

Most social tools aren’t like this. Some, like Vine and Snapchat, are all about communication and allowing users to express themselves with limited features. Others, like Facebook and Instagram, are often about creating a “highlights reel of your life” and presenting a carefully-managed version of who users want others think them to be. These services are less about what’s being shared and more about what those items are meant to convey.

That isn’t to say that MixBit or Potluck signify the end of vanity, which PandoDaily’s head of social media David Holmes opines is a long way off. And it isn’t to say that MixBit will prove to be nearly as popular as Chen and Hurley’s other creation, YouTube, which has become an integral aspect of the social (and video) Web. The service is far too young — and its videos might be far too long — for that.

But it will be interesting to watch as MixBit, Potluck, and other social tools continue to separate what we’re sharing from who we are. Maybe we’ll learn that, in the same way that eating a hamburger won’t make anyone think that we’re a cow, we aren’t quite what we share.

[Illustration by Hallie Bateman for PandoDaily]