Why we made Captiz an open source project

And why open source is an opportunity and not a threat

Long story short : Our customers want the service, not the platform.

As you may know, in September 2015 Lise Slimane and I co-founded Captiz, a french startup specialized in accessibility for the audiovisual industry.

Free software (as in free speech) has been in the DNA of our team from the beginning : Lise had written her final thesis on “The motivations of open source contributors” and I, for myself, have been collaborating on open source projects for almost as long as I have been programming.

In the early life of our company we integrated an incubator specialized in open source projects (La Banquiz) with the agenda to create an open subtitle editor targeted at professionals. We have not found a simple online editor to subtitle or caption any video from a link, so we decided to make our own.

As many startups, we changed our business model along the way, and today Captiz is a marketplace of 500+ skilled freelancers that deliver subtitles for diverse clients (from youtube channel to dubbing group).

Nevertheless the subtitling platform is still at the center of our process.

Our transcription editor

We worked hard on creating a platform that can be used by anyone, and that lets people focus on their linguistic skills without the hassle of learning all the professional constraints.

The open source platform is now available on Github, under the AGPL V3.O License.

Why open source is not a threat

At Captiz, we believe the core value we bring to our clients is in the freelance selection and management, the quality control, and the ease of use. They expect to just send their video and receive their subtitles directly on their Youtube/Vimeo/Facebook account.

Therefore making available our in-house tool is not a threat because the typology of client we target don’t want to use it (they look for something hassle-free).

Why open source is an opportunity

We know that going open source is not the easy way, and can be challenging. But besides the ideological aspect and working with the community to improve the platform, we see many other opportunities :

A social opportunity

Thanks to movements like #NoMoreCraptions that denounce bad captions on Youtube, creating good subtitles for deaf and hard of hearing is getting the attention it needs.

We think communities can collaborate on multiple video provider more easily while keeping control of their data, thanks to a self-hosted tool (such as Amara or Captiz).

A business opportunity

Our business model at Captiz is based on having a large number of freelancers that know how to use our editor. Allowing people to use it inside their community can be an incentive for joining our professional network.

We also hope that small translation agencies are going to use our tool in-house to manage projects. We can then offer them to use our network of freelancers if they want, to remove the time-consuming task of people-management.

Take a look at the next features we have in mind:

  • Upload video to a project (not just a link to a video)
  • Add video providers (Vimeo, Dailymotion, Torrent files, etc…)
  • Add a sign language tool
  • Sync existing text to a video (for example lyrics of a music #karaoke)
  • Use a web service to pre-transcribe (speech to text)
  • Use a web service to pre-translate
  • Integrate a spellcheck
  • Work offline in the editor

To expand this list, your feedback is more than welcome :)

We are really excited to make our platform public and we will continue to improve it over the time.

You can meet Lise Slimane on November 16th and 17th at the Paris Open Source Summit.