Monthly Archives: March 2007

Joost kicks the cable tv industry in the nuts, and you are invited to watch

I picked up an invitation code for Joost over on Jyte last week, and I just took the time to download and install it.

For those who don’t know, Joost is the latest venture from the creators of Skype and Kazaa. Kazaa kicked the music industry in the nuts by providing a decentralized version of Napster. Skype kicked the long distance industry in the nuts by providing easy to use high-quality peer-to-peer internet telephony.

So, that would make Joost a swift kick in the nuts of the cable TV industry. It uses peer-to-peer technology to provide video on demand over the internet. This could make it possible for content producers like HBO to connect with viewers without having to cut in the cable companies (or the cable “networks” for that matter). I’m thrilled at the prospect. I like a lot of HBO programming, but I don’t want to have to deal with the shifty sales tactics of the cable companies in order to get to it, so I end up waiting for things to come out on DVD.

It differs from other P2P distribution of video in a few ways. From the end users point of view, it has the advantage of a slick, learnable user interface that can start playing new video almost instantly.

From the content creators point of view, it has the advantage of allowing them to maintain a degree of control over their content — they decide what gets made available, and how long it remains available. Plus, it looks like there is advertising, which suggests they have a way to get paid.

Of course, as a consumer, I see the ads as a disadvantage. I don’t know how many minutes of ads Joost will ultimately lace their programming with. I do know that network TV devotes almost 20 minutes of every hour to ads. Cable TV is sometimes better, and often worse. I really have better things to do than watching ads. If the price was right, and the programming was decent, I’d pay not to have to see them.

The Joost experience is a mixed bag so far. The installation process is very straightforward and there is basically no configuration, other than signing in to the service once. The UI is a little puzzling, but it doesn’t take long to find all the features, and once you do, it’s pretty easy to remember how to use and find them again. Joost is promising a social experience around TV watching, but so far, I haven’t experienced it. I’ve joined chatrooms for a few of their “channels” and ended up talking to myself because there haven’t been any other users. The video quality is pretty good. Definitely better than YouTube, but generally not as good as a ~360MB/hr XVID, plus, I’ve experienced issues with the stream stuttering or pausing due to network congestion.

Joost could be an interesting test of net neutrality since it depends on infrastructure often provided by competitors (Cable internet) or potential competitors like DSL providers, which are generally phone companies who have their own video ambitions.

The programming on Joost seems decidedly like extended basic cable. Old National Geographic specials, reality shows, niche sporting events, some MTV programming and various independent films. Production qualities are also basic cable-grade, which these days, can be pretty slick. I hope they open it up a little bit and start taking stuff of compelling interest even if the production values are a little more like what two dedicated and talented amateurs can pull off in their spare time.

But hey, you don’t have to take my word for it. I’ve got an invite code or two, so you can check it out for yourself. Just leave me an e-mail address and I’ll send them out, first come, first served.

UPDATE: I’m all out of invites!

Standup Economist Yoram Bauman PhD

Just this last weekend, we had an econ-related lecture I helped organize for the local Reed alumni chapter. I’d originally wanted to have Yoram Bauman PhD do some standup comedy before the lecture, but when it came down to it, I couldn’t figure out a good way to have stand-up comedy and a serious discussion about economics in a two hour period without compromising one or the other.

Now we may have lost our chance. Yoram was just linked from the widely read and influential blog of Jason Kotke, who pointed to a YouTube Video of Yoram doing one of his bits. I’m sure it will be mere weeks before Yoram is hanging out with Jon Stewart, Alan Greenspan, and Bono, and has no time for us little people.