Joost plans to do to TV, what MP3 did to CDs

By Joe Seifi

Joost, which is pronounced "Juiced" from the makers of Skype is planning to do to Television what Napster did to the music industry. The business plan is to make money from commercials and share that revenue with content partners. While it runs on any PC today, Joost will eventually start selling TiVo / Xbox like hardware due to its graphic intensive nature. With time most TV watchers will switch from cable or satellite to super high-speed internet connections that feeds into their flat screen TVs. So, what does this mean for the future? What can it do for you today? I took the Joost beta for a test spin to find out.

joost logo I installed Joost on a Windows XP machine. It is only offered for Windows at the time. The installation was a snap and the sign-up process took less than 1 minute. Joost has a super simple user interface and needs little to no user interaction initially. Upon loading Joost, it goes into full screen mode and starts to play content, mirroring the experience of turning on your TV. This is quite unique compared to online video sites today such as YouTube or iTunes. It is a direct competition to TV. If you want to give it a whirl yourself, I can send you an invite. Just add your email below. Here are some screenshots and some details on its features:

joost loading content joost content joost ads joost channels joost widgets

First Impressions

  • User interaction is optional. This a very cool feature and I can see other websites will start copying this format soon.
  • Sound quality is great. Video is not HD quality but is quite good.
  • Content available from MTV, VH1, Comedy Central and SI to name a few. CBS just signed with Joost so soon you will be able to watch shows like CSI, CSI: Miami, CSI: NY, CBS Evening News, CBS Sportsline, and Survivor. There are also a ton of independent channels from around the world such as The Soccer Channel, U.S. Soccer, XL Recordings Channel, Red Bull, Roadrunner Records, and Brazilian Music Channel.
  • "Community watching": Joost has a chat widget, which looks very promising. This is where things get interactive. You can talk to other people who are watching the same content. It also shows the count of people watching the show
  • Advertisements: are already plugged in between clips. Small text and banner ads are also shown in the corner of the screen periodically. Clicking on links shrinks the application nicely to the bottom of your screen while you surf the web.
  • Short URLs: You can link to any video on Joost via the tiny url format.
  • Rating: Shows can be rated by users
  • Search: The results can be saved a channel which is very powerful. I wish my TiVo had this feature. But like TiVo you can pause, rewind and fast-forward.
  • Performance: is not very smooth on my test machine which has a 2.4GHz CPU with 1GB of RAM. I was at about 90% CPU usage in full screen mode and 65% at using the windowed mode. At times I do get choppy sound and pauses in the stream. Joost uses a P2P technology that is somewhat similar to bit torrent, so while you are watching a clip you are also uploading it to other viewers.

Joost has tons of potential. As more companies start creating Joost Channels their competition will have to do the same. We will probably see more top name brands creating original programming and having their own channel on Joost.

Will Joost do a revenue sharing deal with amateur content makers? If so, will the YouTube crowd migrate to Joost? Will Joost stay free and adopt the Google model or go the Netflix route and become an online VOD service? How will Google respond? What about iTunes? I'm sure others are frantically working to come up with similar competing products. Are cable companies worried about losing subscribers or will Joost just help boost the demand for their broadband services? How long before we see a Joost Mobile service that would compete with the likes of MobiTV and Helio? How long before we have an open source version of Joost?