There are several interesting start-ups that are working to bring the television and internet experiences together. A strong contender in this horse race is Joost, a company founded by Niklas ZennstrÃ¸m and Janus Friis, who co-founded KaZaA and Skype. Currently available in limited beta, Joost provides free access to thousands of programs and channels not currently available on the Web.
Through Joost, you watch programming on your computer by running a stand-alone application that presents a specialized interface with viewing features including links to more information and related websites along with a variety of on-screen widgets including instant messaging, show ratings, message boards, and RSS feeds, all in the form of a “heads-up” transclucent display over the video that comes and goes as needed. The Joost experience combines the interactivity of the web with the continuous stream of television in a social web environment bringing together viewers and inevitably, delivering an audience to advertisers.
Joost is aggressively courting content providers. For example, Viacom Inc. (currently asking Google to remove Viacom content from YouTube) recently announced they would provide free programming to Joost including content from MTV Networks, BET Networks, and Paramount Pictures. While Joost is neither the first nor last player in this space, my experience so far with their current beta provides a glimpse into how the web and television may converge. Joost is not just a pretty interface, it’s a sophisticated platform that provides scalable distribution based on a secure, peer-to-peer streaming technology. What remains to be seen is how friendly they will be to independent filmmakers, and during their beta phase is an excellent time to weigh in with them as both viewers and media makers.
The performance and inage quality are quite impressive considering I was running it over a wireless link on my laptop at home. The selection of content is quite broad, I watched “Secrets of the Titanic,” a National Geographic documentary and several unusual independent films. I had fun playing around with the widgets, one that I especially like is the news widget, that allows you to read news headlies from RSS feeds while you watch the video.
Since Joost is stand-alone application, rather than something that runs within the browser, this could open up your computer to hanky-panky on the part of the Joost application. We’ll have to keep a close eye on this.