First some background. Joost is made by the same guys who made Skype and Kazaa. It uses similar P2P technology to deliver video to your computer screen. This has an advantage over a centralized website like YouTube in that the network load is distributed across many different peer to peer nodes, rather than having to pump through a single central junction. It’s like BitTorrent for video.
Joost has received a lot of hype over the past little while, and recently secured $45 million in funding from noted names such as Sequoia Capital, Index Ventures, CBS Corporation, Viacom, and Chinese billionaire Li Ka-shing. Joost aims to deliver only premium professional content, rather than user-created content. Furthermore, Joost has secured some good content distribution deals with CBS, CNN, the NHL, Warner Brothers, Viacom, and more. As an example, Warner Brothers is offering the exclusively Joost WBTV: Before They Were Mega Stars channel. This channel will have shows from the past that feature today’s big stars when they were just starting out. One thing I love is the plan to stream vintage games from the NHL. That’s enough to snag any hockey fan who yearns for the glory days of the Oilers, Islanders, Canadiens, or any other dynasty team. And there will be highlights from today’s games too. :) On to the good stuff.
The general experience
You can choose to switch between window mode and fullscreen mode. The picture quality is acceptable, though it’s not razor sharp. As well, the colour is a bit off in some clips; occasionally, I even saw some artifacts. These are probably the aftereffects of compressing the video for efficient transfer to clients, combined with maybe some packet loss. However, the picture quality is definitely on par or better than many of the videos you’ll see on YouTube.
The framerate is very inconsistent, depending on the show I’m watching. I’m not entirely sure why, but some shows seem to have a perfectly smooth framerate, while others are very laggy. I’m not entirely sure of the root cause, but it could simply be that the shows that get watched more get higher priority through more nodes. Maybe? Not sure. If you are worried about Joost’s effects on your bandwidth, Joost has this posted in their FAQ:
IMPORTANT NOTICE for users with limits on their internet usage
You need to read this carefully if:
you have an upper limit on your monthly internet usage, or you pay for internet usage as you go (i.e. you pay per megabyte you download, instead of a flat fee).
Joost is a streaming video application, and so uses a relatively high amount of bandwidth per hour. In one hour of viewing, approximately 320Mb data will be downloaded and 105Mb uploaded, which means that it will exhaust a 1Gb cap in 10 hours. Windows users should note that the application continues to run in the background after you close the main window. For this reason, if you pay for your bandwidth usage per megabyte or have your usage capped by your ISP, you should be careful to always exit Joost client completely when you are finished watching it.
There aren’t that many social features, from what I can see so far. Mind you, the UI wasn’t very reliable for me, so I can’t say for sure. As I tried to explore the interface, the program wouldn’t respond to my mouse-clicking for some reason, depending on what I clicked. What I did gather was that you seem to be able to add friends to a buddy list (this is pure speculation, as I only saw something of the like). Definitely, you are able to chat with people who are watching the same show as you. That’s interesting.
The interface is laid out like standard DVD software, and is very easy to navigate. You can toggle various screens to be translucent on top, or hidden. For example, you can expand parts of the interface to show information about the channel or the specific show you are watching.
There’s also a search bar at the bottom through which you can search for specific shows or channels. Another great thing is being able to save channels to a customized personal channel list. This list is initially populated Joost’s suggestions, based on the basic demographic information you input at your first login.
As I noted, the UI was not very responsive for me, but that could just be all the software I had open simultaneously. This thing takes up a lot of resources. According to Joost, you want minimum 512 MB of RAM. I would click on buttons, expecting things to appear, and they wouldn’t appear. Or I clicked on buttons to hide widgets, and they wouldn’t disappear. Yay.
Wish that I could say more, but I will have to play around with it a lot more. What I can say is that I’m quite satisfied with the content so far. You have old-school shows like Transformers and Charlie Chaplin to current day indie movies and extreme sports. I like it, it’s definitely a lot better than the ripped crap I’ve been increasingly seeing on YouTube these days (hey, I still subscribe to some specific YouTube channels, there’s still some good user-created content on there). And the picture quality is definitely a lot better than YouTube’s picture.
For all you developers out there, Joost is releasing a developer kit for a future version, so that you can develop your own custom widgets. That should be interesting; user-made capabilities are all the rage these days, after all. No idea what would be possible with it though.
Overall, Joost is still clearly a work in progress. But for its initial big release, I’m pretty satisfied. Maybe I’ll need to upgrade my computer again in order to run the darn thing properly. However, I think it’s safe to say that Joost is helping (or even forcing?) TV to evolve to its next stage in life. I definitely will keep watching the thing. :)