You'd think the World Wide Web was about to spring to life as a movie theater, given the way major sites are racing to create tools for finding and watching videos online.

Both Google and America Online rolled out new services last week that let high-speed Internet users search for and play back thousands of free video clips. Both the new Google Video Viewer and AOL Video are still in trial form. While AOL's service includes commercials targeted to particular content, Google videos are commercial-free for now, with premium content planned for later.

AOL's video search ( is notable because it is available to anyone on the Web as well as subscribers to the service -- part of AOL's push to make more of its content available to non-subscribers through its site.

AOL Video lets people search and play 15,000 different videos licensed from Time Warner's media empire and other TV companies. More than 1.5 million additional video clips from around the Web also are searchable through the Singingfish multimedia search engine that AOL bought two years ago.

AOL said most people should be able to view the 15,000 licensed clips without having to set up any special software, because the company is using special code to transmit the video and play it in whatever media player a user has installed.

This feature, however, only works with Internet Explorer for Windows; AOL says it's working on Firefox and Safari.

Alex Blum, AOL's vice president of audience products, said AOL would serve up "well over 100 million video streams" this month.

Google Video ( may be most notable for the controversy it generated by inadvertently making a bunch of copyrighted TV shows and movies available to anyone who downloaded the new Google video player.

Google quickly removed the copyrighted videos, spokesman Nate Tyler said Friday. A statement encouraged "anyone who has a copyright concern or complaint" to send Google a notice requesting the item be removed from the site's video-hosting service.

Google is building its Web video service in stages. Early this year, it launched a video search tool that didn't include any playback. A few months ago, it invited Web videographers to upload their clips for storage on Google's computers. Google then had human editors scan the video to weed out pornography and anything that appeared to be copyrighted before releasing it to the public last week.

Playback occurs through a new program called Google Video Viewer, a free download for Windows 2000 and XP that works with the Firefox and Internet Explorer browsers.

Google and AOL have plenty of competition for searching and serving Web video. Similar video search products are available or under development by Yahoo, Microsoft's MSN and lesser known players such as

Attack of the Podcast People

Podcasting, a system for automating Internet audio downloads, got a big boost last week from Apple Computer when it released a new, podcast-capable version of iTunes. Within two days, more than 1 million podcast subscriptions had been logged in iTunes, the company said.

A podcast is a downloadable audio file that can be created by anyone -- home hobbyist or professional radio host -- and then played on a computer or a digital-audio player such as Apple's iPod.

Podcasting adoption has been slow in part because the tools available for looking up and subscribing to podcast files have been cumbersome. But the new iTunes release (a free download for Win 2000 or newer and Apple's Mac OS X) features a directory of some 3,000 podcast sources, which users can subscribe to and transfer to an iPod with a few clicks.

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AOL Video has Time Warner on its side.Google Video was rolled out last week.