First looks at Joost

s I edited the book today, while the snow blew in an oddly unendearing blizzard–alas, we missed the copper moon–I watched Joost. Specifically I watched a nice show on sleeper sharks, several episodes of National Geographic, and explored a bit with the other channels.

A television network hosted entirely through the web (Internet Protocol TV or IPTV) is the way of the future, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see the major networks go this route eventually. At issue is bandwidth, not to mention integrity of signal. With Joost I found that sometimes the picture would be remarkably clear; other times, barely viewable. Still, all in all, for a beta product it was quite good.

I liked being able to pick any show I wanted, stop it, re-start it, and re-watch it if I wanted. The commercials are short and sweet, and I don’t begrudge the few minutes per show for them. What didn’t work is that Joost interrupts the program literally mid-word–it makes no use of markers to insert commercials in natural lulls. In addition, the commercials ended up being a uniform loud volume while the shows wavered in their loudness–leading me to having to hastily turn down the volume.

There’s a ‘young person’ feel to the service that I think is a serious mistake. A host from the service cracks about the ‘old people’ and the music videos seemed to feature young women who all sounded alike and all equally bared their navels, complete with navel rings.

Then there are the stripper shows. Ha! That got your attention.

Seriously, making assumptions about an audience could end up acting as a natural filter, which will end up hurting overall client numbers.

I don’t have cable or satellite, so Joost seems like a good alternative. However, I especially wanted to try out Joost because RDF plays a strong role in its infrastructure. According to Leo Simons:

We make extensive use of RDF in different places. It all starts with a core RDFS/Owl schema that is used to capture various kinds of information (think FOAF +imdb+RSS+a lot more). I suspect some parts of the modelling work that was done here will make it into future standards for online video.

We have a custom distributed digital asset management system (or DAM), built around jena-with-postgres at the moment for storage and (CRUD-like) management off all that RDF-ized information over a REST protcol.

Not only will this research go into Joost–at least part of the effort is going into TripleSoup:

TripleSoup is the simplest thing that you can do to turn your apache web server into a SPARQL endpoint.

TripleSoup will be an RDF store, tooling to work with that database, and a REST web interface to talk to that database using SPARQL, implemented as an apache webserver module.

Joost signed a deal with Viacom, which should begin to add to the content offered (Daily Show!) It’s a P2P service, a term we don’t hear very often now with the world’s seeming focus on all things Web 2.0. If this is P2P, what should happen is that my using the service also means that my PC participates in the network, providing resources for said network. I can’t find anything on that part of the application, but I’m assuming this is so. Or perhaps the true P2P is on the part of the networks involved.

Joost has a widget interface, which includes chat, a clock, and various other items of that nature, but to me, this isn’t something that’s too interesting. Either I want to watch television or I want to chat. If I wanted to do both at the same time, I’d get married again.

The interface is clean and relatively intuitive, especially if you’re used to Windows Media Center. All in all, it’s a pretty decent beta offering–true beta rather than than the, “Hi, we’re alpha, but beta is so much more cool. And it’s all fun anyway! *giggle*”. It has a way to go, though, as the current show I’m watching demonstrates, being full of stops and starts. Time to put on a movie.

Screenshots and another review.

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