Hulu Adds Social Networking, Rockets to No. 2

Hulu is celebrating its first year on the Web, and everybody is invited. A new feature on Hulu's Web site was launched yesterday -- brilliantly named Hulu Friends -- that integrates social networking tools alongside the site's expansive video content.

You can now invite friends through your Gmail, Hotmail, or Yahoo Mail accounts, or tap into the vast friend resources of MySpace and Facebook to lure buddies onto couches for quality TV viewing. You can share videos and leave notes on other user accounts. Using a newsfeed similar to Facebook's, Hulu Friends can broadcast what you and your friends have been watching and who you've befriended. This feature can be turned off as well (so no worries about watching Hulu at work).

Those familiar with Boxee and TV.com may find something oddly familiar about this, as both sites already have socialization features. Perhaps Hulu's addition of the same is one of the reasons Hulu, Boxee, and TV.com continue to duke it out for streaming rights.

Hulu has done extremely well during its first 365 of post-beta existence. In such a short period of time, the site has rocketed to the number two video streaming site on the Internet, offering roughly 309 million streams and 9.4 million unique visitors, according to February 2009 Nielsen data. YouTube boasted more than sixteen times that amount -- about 5.1 billion streams and 88 million unique visitors. Hulu still has a lot of ground to gain, but with more than 40,000 videos on its site, and an uprising of popularity, Hulu stands to become a household name.

While some may be tired of social networking capabilities popping up on every single site, it's an undeniably effective -- and cheap -- way to connect customers with products. And given the social nature of television viewing, it just makes sense.

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