Ever since we interviewed Janus Friis, the co-founder of Skype about The Venice Project, his latest start-up that plans to use peer-to-peer technology to disrupt the television industry, we have been intrigued and have been dying to get a look at the service. Even though they […]

Ever since we interviewed Janus Friis, the co-founder of Skype about The Venice Project, his latest start-up that plans to use peer-to-peer technology to disrupt the television industry, we have been intrigued and have been dying to get a look at the service.

theveniceproject.gifEven though they have launched a beta program, an invite to the service hasn’t been forthcoming. Like a lot of you who left a comment in response to a previous post, looking for an invite, we don’t have one either. But that didn’t stop us from trying to get a peek at the service, and now we have, thanks to some well-placed friends who were willing to share their exclusive access for exactly 30 minutes. What follows is a firsthand look at the Venice Project and what we found inside the most awaited new application on planet broadband.

venicesetup1.gifAfter you log into the service you are taken to a download page, where you can download the latest build. For now, The Venice Project works exclusively on Windows XP Service Pack 2 edition. It takes less than a minute to download on a decent cable or DSL connection, and the install is pretty straightforward.

venicesetup2.gifIn fact, I would venture to say that it is as simple to install the Venice Project software as Skype, which shouldn’t come as a surprise given Janus’ obsession with usability. The installation consumes about 250 MB per hour, the company says, which makes it one of the true broadband applications. I wonder what the incumbent service providers will have to say about this! But that’s a topic of discussion for another day. Once you install, I recommend that you reboot, though the service doesn’t require you to do so.

Post reboot, you are good to go. Double click on the icon that sits on your desktop (or in the dock) and that’s it, you are taken to a start screen, which shows some of the default channel options, staff picks and all that beta stuff. I am going to let the screenshots speak for themselves, instead of trying to explain what it looks like and how it all works.

Let’s talk instead about the service in general. I had heard from a lot of people who were lukewarm on the offering and were not impressed by the photo quality. I am not sure what happened, but those problems have been fixed. The visuals on a Lenovo T60 with a 15.2-inch screen were stunning and crisp. The streams came through without a problem and there was very little jitter. Still, no point hooking it up to a big screen TV… just yet! There isn’t LIVE TV content on the service right now and most of what is there consists of meager offerings streaming off the Venice Project servers. So you can’t truly judge how good this service will be when it comes to “live” broadcasts just yet.

There was a noticeable lag in switching channels, or between different menu choices. But as I said, these will go away with time. Setting up “my channels” was fairly simple. You just double-click and keep adding channels (or programs) you want to watch. Removing them was equally simple. It is very “dummy proof” and they have done a good job of organizing the service in a way that you can visually navigate without reading a manual.

I also liked that there are a lot of social elements built into the service. There is a “plugins” feature but not much there except the chat. You can chat with your buddies, or you can set up a “program or channel specific” chat network. I am guessing this is where a lot of innovation is going to come.

So how does this stack-up against say a Skype or Kazaa, the two previous startups that were a Janus & Niklas co-production? I think from a disruptive standpoint, it is right up there with those two. Free Phone Calls, Free Music… Free Television… pretty easy to understand the unique selling proposition.

However, unlike Skype which had “forced viral distribution” built into its business model, this one needs content… a lot of quality content. Large media companies, globally, would like to get their pound of flesh from the Venice Project (now that the Skype boys are all rich, they can pay right!). The technology certainly works, and for content providers – say the Disney and Viacoms of the world – this is a pretty good thing. It frees them up from the carriage providers and gives them a global audience.

I saw some clips with ads embedded in them, and they worked just like plain old television. With a more directed audience, and targeted ad distribution platforms such as one from SpotRunner, can turn this into a win-win for everyone. More on this when we get our official invite.

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  1. Just a quick couple of notes on your otherwise rather complete story from a developer on The Venice Project.

    First, you don’t need to reboot after the install, you can just let TVP start up right after it’s installed. Great usability matters to us indeed and rebooting is not so nice.

    Also, even though there aren’t a lot of plug-ins available yet, there are two other plug-ins besides the chat ones. One offers ratings and another allows to add your favorite RSS feeds to a news ticker. Both plug-ins can be seen on one of the screenshots that we made publicly available.


    Like you said, this is beta software, and we are working hard to make sure the product is as usable as can be while allowing very powerful interaction with your TV watching experience.

  2. There is no need to reboot – it does not change the way the venice project works.

  3. Well, let’s be honest here. It is not hard to get free television. Believe it or not, things like CSI and the NFL are actually being broadcast over the air! Then there is all the good stuff that is available illicitly over existing PTP, Usenet, and others. It may not be streaming, but who cares. I use my DVR to time shift the stuff I get from Comcast, so waiting for something to download at broadband speeds is not a big deal. Then there all the paid ways to get good content. So, the real issue is not about free or streaming, but about quality of content. Unless the stuff available on Venice is as good as what’s available via major licit and illicit sources, who cares what the picture quality is like?

  4. Corsin Camichel Thursday, December 21, 2006

    Hi Om

    Do you think it is a good idea to offend against the policies? The beta home page cleared states you are not allowed to take screenshots of the shows itself.
    Quote: “With one major exception: screenshots of the UI. The problem is not so much the UI, that one is ours, but the TV content you will always see behind our interface. Which is not ours.”
    And tell me your username and we can chat via “chat” :)


  5. I just received my beta program membership a few days ago. I have not tested the service fully, but I am generally impressed.

    The installation was smooth (no reboot) and the image quality is very good. Additionally, I can really see the value of the social aspects of the service within the software. Also, the software was sophisticated, but not complex. I managed to watch a bit of a Lassie episode and still felt hip!

    All in all, a bit more refinement on the user experience (i.e. navigation) of the software/service along with more content makes this a very compelling offering.

  6. I saw that same language on the beta page and have been hesitant to post screenshots. However, I saw one of the early beta testers actually published shots on his blog before the public beta went out. He indicated that certain content might be cleared for shots. I’ve asked for confirmation or a list of ‘cleared content’ but haven’t heard back yet.

  7. “Unless the stuff available on Venice is as good as what’s available via major licit and illicit sources, who cares what the picture quality is like?”

    It’s easier and quicker than downloading (and isn’t going to land you in court), more convenient than watching it when the broadcasters decide you’re going to watch it, and cheaper than a TiVo. The Venice Project isn’t just about the video, either — there are already a few community-type elements in there and more are planned for the near future, and we’re going to be able to add “value” that just isn’t available from the current TV/video solutions. (If it were just about “quality video”, do you think YouTube would have become as popular as it has?)

    Ok, so I’m obviously biased, but don’t dismiss TVP just yet! :)

  8. This looks like an interesting service, but it seems to me that HDTV poses a serious obstacle to this sort of offering. Currently online video works because slapstick is fine in small grainy windows. I think it’ll have more than enough success to make these guys some more money, but I don’t see it as being especially disruptive when viewers are increasingly investing their bucks in brand new 50 inch HDTV’s.

  9. Ludovic

    I did not say you need to reboot, but in my past experience with windows applications, its safer to reboot the computer. just in case.

  10. IndySTeve and others… since i am not an official beta tester so …

  11. Corsin Camichel

    my chatting and access to venice project was limited to 30 minutes. that’s all I needed. I get a feeling I am not getting invited for the beta. ;-)

  12. TVU http://www.tvunetworks.com already does this. You can self publish any content you can encode. You are right, it’s all about the content you put on there. Right NOW they have all the Major carriers (FOX, NBC, CBS, ABC) and a bunch of international channels. I’m just wondering why/when the “Pay-per” channels like Showtime, HBO, etc. are going to be plugged in. Hey, this works and has been out for a while.

  13. Ive been testing the Venice project for the past 2 weeks and i believe its going to emerge as a solid product.The focus is certainly on community.
    They also have a very strong testing team.
    They are very prompt with their replies and are eager to get to the core of the issue

    I believe they had a policy up until yesterday..”not to post screenshots of content itself.”

    OM. I hope you got their blessings!!

  14. I wonder if TVUNetworks content is legal or “self-published”… Nevertheless, it’s a great service, and was apparently quite popular during the World Cup when not everyone in the US had access to the games.

  15. According to TVP, rights are still be negotiated to post screenshots on a lot of the content. I’d suggest sticking with the screenshots they posted at http://theveniceproject.com/screenshots/ to avoid upsetting any legal types.

  16. Michael Plasmeier Thursday, December 21, 2006

    The point of the beta is to get the system straight. Leave the content out till you get the software working and then adding the content is easy. This is how most betas work.

    Plus aren’t screenshots allowed (at least in USA) under fair-use?

  17. Thanks for the preview, Om. Any product that disrupts the current ad market is good by me. I look forward to VP’s impact.

  18. OM

    Happy Holidays and let’s all hope 2007 gets all of these issues straightened out.

  19. Nitin Borwankar Thursday, December 21, 2006

    For web workers, having the ability to do high quality video conferencing would take us to a whole new level of productivity.

    Not sure if the chat-plugin is the way to get that capability …

    Can anyone clarify ?

  20. THe Venice Project looks solid so far. Can’t wait til they officially launch.


  21. Can you confirm or deny which CODEC and what encoding rates?

    I assume Venice uses a standard CODEC such as H.248 (MPEG 4 Part 10).

    For normal definition “TV quality” I’d guess each stream requires about 2.5 Megabits /sec. or slightly more.

    High Definition will need about 8 to 10Mbps.

  22. Venice Project Hands On: This Is Going To Kill YouTube…

    The guys who brought you KaZaA and Skype are at it again, and their upcoming Venice Project Peer to Peer streaming will show YouTube how video is really done. Just like KaZaA was a disruptive force in music sharing, and…

  23. where are they going to get the content from! the TV networks of course and they are going to ensure that value doesnt migrate to other avenues…

    does this mean u use a tv card to capture content ?? and then distribute it…i may be misisng something here, but thats not “fair use”..

  24. Ron,

    I will try and get you that information about CODECS. I still have your old email – does that work?

  25. Jesse K. and Sampat,

    the content is key, and this is going to be the make or break issue for any company with such ambitions. I think that is why they tried to resolve the Kazaa related litigations and settled with RIAA. I think they will be able to show their value proposition as a result of that.


  26. Japanese Breast Bounce Contest: Proof Why We Need the Venice Project…

    Chen and Om like the Venice Project video service’s concept: Use a P2P system to support bigger, faster, higher quality downloads. Here’s proof why we need this, like, yesterday. This video of a breast bouncing contest, where two well-endowed,…

  27. Venice Project Hands On: This Is Going To Kill YouTube…

    The guys who brought you KaZaA and Skype are at it again, and their upcoming Venice Project Peer to Peer…

  28. Of course live free television is already available with real content partners at whooda.com. You don’t have to download a viewer, the content can be syndicated and you can change the size of the stream in the code which can be cut and pasted anywhere. Who needs Venice or Skype? The product they want is already here and guess what, it streams perfectly. Tell me again what they add to this?

  29. TVP cannot be considered a YouTube killer.
    But certainly very healthy and needed competition in content streaming arena.

  30. Japanese Digitally-Counted *** Bounce Contest: NSFW and Proof Why We Need the Venice Project…

    Chen and Om like the Venice Project video service’s concept: Use a P2P system to support bigger, faster,…

  31. I feel the You Tube generation will slowly move from SHARING to STREAMING culture.

    It won’t be surprising to see a new Amanda Congdon ready to stream her TV channel.

  32. Hands on with The Venice Project — P2P TV from the creators of Skype…

    Filed under: Home Entertainment While Skype co-founders Niklas Zennstrom and Janus Friis might’ve gotten…

  33. “If it were just about “quality video”, do you think YouTube would have become as popular as it has?”

    With that said, TVP needs a serious late pass:


  34. Looking forward to that Beta invite still as well, but thanks for the screenshots. I hope that it will land some deals with the major distributors.

  35. The Venice Project – Early Preview…

    GigaOM was able to get a preview of The Venice Project, a new business venture from the creators of Kazaa…

  36. how would TVP this impact slingbox?

  37. Im amazed that OM isnt foll0wing the offical screenshot policy .

    Cleared to blog

    You beta-testers want to blog. And we hear you! Unfortunately we’ve had to say no until now. But from hereon – that is perfectly possible.

    With one major exception: screenshots of the UI. The problem is not so much the UI, that one is ours, but the TV content you will always see behind our interface. Which is not ours.

    And unfortunately in most countries one needs to clear rights with the content owner, actor or other parties in order to be able to post these. So this means that you usually cannot publish a screenshot on your blog.

    So to solve this problem we’ve gone out to a few of the content owners and arranged this for you. In the last update you’ll find the URL.

    We’ll be adding a few more over the next couple of days (it takes time to go through all the paperwork). If there are specific ones you’d like us to clear, drop ‘support@theveniceproject.com’ an email and we see what we can do!

    Thanks and have fun !


    Posted at 09 Dec @ 2:24 PM by Dirk-Willem van Gulik”

    There are copyright clarance issues and what ever OMs personal opinion is on copyright he should respect the policys of the venice Project and the copyright owners .

    Im sure the people form the Venice Project are being tolerant of OMs copyright infringement becuase of the publicity they are reciving .

  38. content providers or producers of all media like books music movies programs are all trying to hold on to their products to reshow later on.However emile you tube etc all allow anyone to be able to copy and offer the show book songs immediately. Soproducers must do it first and must think its aone shot deal. Venice offers a way to make a buck by foing righttothe net and bypassing the pirate, the emuler, the you tubnick..Im sure cbs nbs hbo will all follow with free content online ad supported…internet is the new cable , the new dish the new way the freeway…

  39. Some of us have rather high resolution screens, all these vidoe sites, software, services need to seriously up the video quality.
    Watching a pixelated Youtube video on a high res screen is painful.
    Said video is about the size of a small PostIt note and still pixelated. Gives me a headache!

    Props to OM for getting access and taking screenies! This service may be worth a shot…

    Thanks OM!

  40. I’m a beta tester of the Venice Project…and i think you just violated the Non Disclosure aggreement by posting those screen shots.

    rut roh!


  41. I’m looking for an invitation to the beta test, if any testers have an invitation left it would be greatly appreciated


  42. What is with all these other blogs posting their own stories in the comment section?!? You are like a bunch of party crashers.

  43. Party Crashers..hehe :)
    woot woot!

  44. global media guru Sunday, December 24, 2006

    P2P is ok for music, software
    is bad for video
    P2P a video from a third party makes you not closer to a source video content,
    as due to bandwidth
    P2P software was off-line activity
    P2P music – low bandwith semi-live activity

  45. If anyone has a beta-test token to spare, will be appreciated if you can forward to sungeigedong@gmail.com.


  46. The Vinice project is nice, but I am a sports fan. And as such want to see sports events leagally (yes licit, not stollen- and I do not mind paying for them to support my teams). Will the Vinice project ever be live (yes live as in watch now while it is happening, as in sports, weather, news, etc)? ? ?

  47. Sure the Venice project can do live streaming and its on their roadmap like every other major p2p developer around but live sports is a nightmare for rights issues .Another p2p network that can stream live is LX systems .

  48. Hi
    is there anyone who can send me a Invitation to funkjoker02@web.de

    it would be very nice


  49. Please send me an invitation!!!


    I’ll come back and reward you with some more!!!

  50. If anyone has a beta test invitation to spare, will be appreciated if you can forward it to g261173@yahoo.co.uk
    Thank you

  51. Werner Egipsy Souza Tuesday, January 2, 2007

    Invites are available now. Previous subscribers, now get two tokens to invite people in.


  52. OM, who are your picks for biggest iptv players you WOULDNT expect – for 2007?

    Are we going to see some nobodies become really big in the space like flickr did with photos over kodak?

  53. This is why you are the Man OM !!! Txs for this info and mainly SCREENSHOTS !!!

    … “with a litlle help from friends”… =P

  54. Can I have a invite to Venice project please

  55. one invitation for me please,I am a big web TV fan.



  56. I’d appreciate an invite as well!



  57. Could I please get an invitation.

    Thank YOU.


  58. darryl collins Friday, January 5, 2007

    I’d love an invite if anyone has any spare



  59. Please invite me. I am a technology freak so…



  60. I would appreciate an invite – please send me one.
    Thanks very much.



  61. Data Center Knowledge Sunday, January 7, 2007

    The Venice Project: 2 Gigs Per User A Day…

    The Venice Project, a peer-to-peer Internet TV start-up from the foudners of Skype and Kazaa, could consume enormous amounts of network bandwidth. …

  62. I Will pay $50 USD for an invite / beta test token.
    If you have one please contact me at uronix@yahoo.com


  63. i tried it out this weekend (i have no invites) and thought the service was very slow, and heavy on memory usage. The content was nothing special. the quality was ok (could be my nvidia 64mb video card)

  64. We really appreciate if any of you could pass a token to us.

    FYI: We have today only limited access to TV with real poor quality.

    Tack så mycket!

  65. Hi, If anyone could offer me a token I’d really appreciate it:




  66. My two cents…
    I just started beta-testing today and my first impressions are an enthusiastic two thumbs-up. Cool interface, easy navigation, great video quality. I think it will be a definite winner!!!

  67. Hello, I am writing a term paper on the P2P influence on the current and future internet. An invitation would help me tremendously. If anyone has one to spare please forward to squiduard@yahoo.com

    Thank you very much

  68. Hi,

    Please send me an invite to Joost (aka, The Venice Project):


    Many Thanks;)

  69. The Project code name is Joost. Yeah! http://www.joost.com By any chance, did anyone who is already in Beta Testing has extra token? Really appreciated!!


  70. sunblogger – notizen aus einer norddeutschen werbeagentur Wednesday, January 17, 2007

    Rätsel aufgelöst: Aus “The Venice Project” wird Joost.com…

    Das Branchengetrommel um das IPTV-Projekt “the Venice Project der Skype-Gründer Zennstrom und Janus Friis hat seit gestern ein Ende. Das Programm, welches TV- und Onlineangebote gleichermaßen verfügbar machen soll, ist von der &#82…

  71. Waits in line….. :)

    Can someone throw a beta invite this way please

    r.hugis (at) gmail (dot) com

    thanks in advance

  72. Can me someone invite, please?

    thanks, jaro.


  73. Hi,i’m a chinese.i wanna one,please invite me:
    54spider@gmail.com. Thx alot.

  74. Would very much love an invite for the next internet revolution!!!


  75. Hi folks,

    I’d really appreciate an invite to Joost as well.
    Thanks in advance,



  76. Pretty please, an invite! An invite would make my day soo nice.. and it has been so cold and rainy… fell off my bike a few times.. crazy weather. Mother earth is upset… brighten my day?

    y.macarov (at) gmail (dot) com

  77. Would love an INVITE.



  78. Marijn IJpelaar Friday, January 19, 2007

    Can someone send me an invitation, I will give the people here my new invitations.




  79. LostInBrittany Friday, January 19, 2007

    Same here, if you send me an invite, I will share my invites with people here…

    lostinbrittany AT gmail DOT com

  80. Please send me an invitation!!!



  81. please, I need an invitation!!!!

  82. I want an invitation too! I love beta programs…

    my address is:
    diegocogo at gmail dot com

  83. Hi

    I would really like an invitation. I work with streaming media software at B & O and would like to see what theire proposals are…

  84. I would greatly appreciate an invitation … PLEASE! I’m stoked about Joost!
    onesuavechampion at yahoo dot com

    THANK YOU!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  85. Getting an invitation is as hard as finding a chicken with a set of teeth…anyway, I still belive in Santa and the tooth fairies so if anybody got an invite laying around, I would love to get it

  86. I’d love to beta test the new Joost, does anyone have a spare invitation?

    Please send it to my e-mail:
    matthias.hh (a) gmail.com

    thanks in advance

  87. I need invitation, can someone send me one,
    my email:

  88. Win a Venice Project invite! » Life Goggles Tuesday, February 27, 2007

    [...] are made it may be a first port of call for new shows or something you’ve missed on TV. See here and here for further details of [...]

  89. Are they still accepting new beta testers?

  90. Tim Howell’s Weblog » The Venice Project Sunday, March 25, 2007

    [...] coverage is available at GigaOm, amongst others, but I’ve just received my beta invite and will be trying it out soon. Let me [...]

  91. I would greatly appreciate an invitation to Joost as well. I’m actually doing a research project on it at school and it would be tremendously helpful if I can use the product in beta form. Thanks!

  92. GigaOM » Joost (almost) Launches Tuesday, May 1, 2007

    [...] Friis and Niklas Zennström, who had previously started Kazaa and Skype. Joost, earlier known as The Venice Project, is based on the same core P2P technology. However, the big picture of Joost would lead to [...]

  93. Robert Accettura’s Fun With Wordage » Blog Archive » The Venice Project Tuesday, May 1, 2007

    [...] much-talked-about Venice Project a few weeks ago, and managed to take it for a spin a few times. GigaOm among others like Engadget and BusinessWeek have also mentioned it. A few noteworthy [...]

  94. » Adobe’s “Philo” – branded Internet TV and some possible competition for Joost | The Universal Desktop | ZDNet.com Tuesday, May 22, 2007

    [...] might be a direct competitor to Joost. Joost got a lot of attention from people like Om Malik and Mike Arrington. If Philo can generate that kind of buzz, it will be good for Adobe but maybe [...]

  95. [...] can’t go into details, having signed NDAs, but there’s a cheeky article about it all on Om Mailik’s [...]

  96. The Venice Project « Down * Uploads Tuesday, June 5, 2007

    [...] già parlato di The Venice Project qui, ma ora su GigaOM è comparsa in esclusiva la preview della prima beta del Venice Project. Il nuovo software [...]

  97. Disruptive Technology #4… Joost ปฏิวัติการดูทีวีแบบใหม่ | Knowledge Revolution Thursday, August 23, 2007

    [...] ดูรายละเอียดเพิ่มเติม หน้าตาของ Joost#1หน้าตาของ Joost #2The Venice Project hands on :… [...]

  98. The Venice Project brings P2P to TV Sunday, October 7, 2007

    [...] Inside The Venice Project & Exclusive Screen Shots [...]

  99. Joost Review | Third time’s a charm (List of channels available) « Marketing Nirvana by Mario Sundar Tuesday, October 9, 2007

    [...] reviews: Giga Om, Read/Write Web, Technology Review, and so many [...]

  100. Techo Zed Meuw » Inside The Venice Project — Exclusive Screen Shots Friday, November 9, 2007

    [...] read more | digg story [...]

  101. trademark registration Tuesday, November 27, 2007

    The Venice Project seems like it would be a good competitor when it comes to online video streaming applications. Beta-testing is a great way to raise popularity and interest in programs like these.

  102. Seems like a perfect project,i think online tv will be very popular in the future

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