Watching TV with Joost

Who comes up with calling a piece of software “Joost”? A friend of mine is called Joost. Joost is a very common first name in Holland. I see the name popping up everywhere now: blogs, newspapers and every time I think it’s about my friend. Annoying. Imagine they called it “David” or “Matt” or something like that.

Anyway, Joost received a lot of press even though the only real news is its name change. It was known as “The Venice Project” before, which I thought was a nice tasteful mystical name. The goal of the project is to build TV for the internet. That also doesn’t sound very new or exciting. The factor that makes it “new and exciting” is that it is a project of the same guys that built Skype and Kazaa. This is what created the hype around the project. If it’s built by these guys it must be an upcoming successful product. And it might become one, for three reasons:

  1. It protects rights of the owners of its distributed content. I don’t think it will be possible to record anything, or if it would be possible there would be some DRM on it.
  2. It is streaming and peer-to-peer technology. This saves huge amounts on bandwidth bills.
  3. It allows plug-ins to be created.

How does the fact that it allows the content’s owners to protect their content make it successful? Because current TV stations may buy into it. Right now we have vidcasting, or whatever you would like to call it — RSS feeds with video enclosures. Clients like iTunes and Democracy Player read these feeds and download the video files to the user’s hard drive. These files are unprotected, can be copied as much as people like. That’s fine for many amateurs, but TV studios generally are not a big fan of this. Where would their revenue come from? They can put ads in it, but it is very easy to skip. Joost gives the content providers the opportunity to put ads in their shows that you will not be able to skip. That’s it. That’s what TV studios need to make a profit.

Video bandwidth is a big problem. Any site that is a bit popular and offers video downloads has huge bandwidth bill. There are rumours that a site like YouTube has bandwidth bills of one million dollars a day, or at least hundreds of thousands of dollars. That is a lot of money. Skype and Kazaa used peer-to-peer techniques to not have to pay the bandwidth bills caused by their users. They let their users talk to each other directly, without them interfering much. Joost will do the same thing, video will be streamed from user to user. Yes, a video stream consumes a hell lot more bandwidth than a simple phone call, so you better start thinking of upgrading your internet connection a bit.

Apparently Joost uses Mozilla’s XUL and allows developers to extend Joost with this. This would mean you can write plug-ins using Javascript and such. This could be very interesting. A chat client could let people watching the same show chat with each other. Again the Skype guys took the same approach. They created a proprietary platform, but have a plug-in system for third-party developers to exploit.

This is definitely a project worthy of following. However it seems they will not be supporting PowerPC Macs, so I won’t be able to use it for a while. Oh well, my Democracy Player has 40 videos left I still have to watch so there’s no hurry.