Welcome to the internet’s Third Place.
Just like the real world, the online world is now divided up into three “places” that define our daily lives. The first is home–where you get on with your private and family life. The second is work–your bill-paying, desk sitting, subway riding life. The third place is public–the bars, cafes, sports arenas, theaters, and parks where you enjoy the company of others.
Video calling platform Rabbit is a member of that rare third place. It aims to be a virtual living room where you gather online with friends to share the internet the way you share the bars and restaurants of the brick-and-mortar world.
With Rabbit, you and your buddies can watch movies, YouTube clips, live streams, concerts, and more, all while chatting together through a video call, your heads displayed in chat windows beneath the main screen.
It’s a great idea, but–as you’ll discover in this Rabbit video sharing review–one that the platform can’t quite pull off. It’s all a bit clumsy and awkward, and the audio and visuals are far from cinematic. Rabbit has all the features you’d want from the virtual living room, it just looks and feels like the host isn’t ready to receive guests yet.
How Rabbit Works
Right from the get go, Rabbit feels a bit like stealing. Just by visiting the website you can instantly join a public chat room and start watching streaming movies alongside anonymous strangers the world over. I was able to catch Titanic and Finding Dory without so much as creating a username, although I did have to put up with a constant flow of chat messages shouting “Anyone here from India?,” “Anyone here from Quebec?”
That’s possible because Rabbit runs on WebRTC’s open video conference platform that turns any participating browser (sorry, no Safari) into a live, public video calling and streaming portal, without any downloads or personal accounts. You just click and enter.
In Rabbit’s case, it’s like sneaking into the back of a movie theater without a ticket. Only you can create your own movie theater by setting up your own chat room. The signup process just involves handing over a valid email address. Within seconds you can invite up to 25 friends to join you for a live group video chat alongside the stream of your choice.
Unfortunately, the setup is much easier than the shared stream.
The Big Draw: Sharing and Streaming Movies Online
Rabbit is capable of sharing video content from YouTube, Netflix, Hulu, Twitch, Vimeo–basically anything that can run through your browser. Once you’ve created your chat room–make sure you lock it and keep it private if you don’t want random people wandering in–and invited friends using a private link, you then just pick what to watch. Be warned, Rabbit makes completely random attempts to set you up with potential friends, so don’t automatically OK everyone it throws your way.
Your viewing screen is actually a separate browser within the app controlled by a tiny cursor that mirrors your computer’s own device. You search, type, and access this mini browser the way you would your normal desktop version, although there is a terrible lag and the screen is a third normal size so you have to be an accurate clicker.
If the content you’re after is free–YouTube for instance–you just hit play and settle in. If your content has a paywall, like Netflix or Amazon, you have to sign in and then make a choice.
Essentially, you’re sharing your own private accounts online. It’s like having absent friends join you on your living room couch to watch your television–if it works, that is. I couldn’t get Netflix going at all, and the quality of the YouTube stream was poor.
Actually, the whole video calling experience wasn’t up to scratch.
The Rabbit Video Sharing Review Verdict? Needs Work
When you watch a movie with friends at home, you can adjust your voice and actions to limit the interference with what’s happening on screen. No such luck with Rabbit. Everyone is given equal volume and position, so anything one person says the whole group hears–right over the onscreen dialog.
By default, the streaming content appears in the main central chat window with the video callers reduced to small bubbles below. That makes sense in recreating the feel of a movie theater, but if you want to actually see a friend as they talk, you have to scroll over their icon and boost them to the main spot. If more than one person is talking, or if the conversation bounces around a lot, this gets very confusing and frustrating.
There are other faults as well. The service isn’t currently available for Android, although there is a Rabbit-endorsed workaround that’ll give you access to the basics. More importantly though, Rabbit’s tiny chat windows make viewing on a smartphone a very taxing affair on the eyes.
To be blunt, this feels a little like something a hacker friend would whip up to steal cable–and how Rabbit gets around Netflix and Amazon sharing regulations in the open public rooms is beyond my legal knowledge. Also, bear in mind that if you leave your own chat room early you have to manually kick out all inside lest they linger on in your personal account.
The bottom line is, the concept of the Third Place or the virtual living room is a great one with loads of potential. However, there are other shared streaming video calling platforms out there that do a better job than Rabbit, notably ooVoo, which we took a look at in our ooVoo vs Houseparty review, and the live-streaming social media app Airtime. Although neither has the content partners Rabbit boasts, they execute the shared stream and social video calling experience far better.
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