The folks over at the Participatory Culture Foundation are gearing up for the 1.0 release of their Miro video player, formerly known as Democracy, and you can practically hear them sharpening their knives. The Getmiro.com web site is now featuring a comparison of Miro and Joost, and Joost doesn’t get much love: “Miro is open like the Internet. Joost works like a cable company with DRM.” Snap!
The aggressive tone of the site is understandable. Miro is an excellent product, but ever since they launched late last year, Joost has been getting all the attention. But is it really true that Joost is “a pretty dull product,” as the Miro blog laments? We’re not so certain about that. Sure, Joost has its shortcomings, but it also has some pretty innovative features. So why not learn from the competition? You can always start your knife fight later.
Here are a few things that Miro could learn from Joost:
Be more social. Miro has done a great job with its channel guide, but you can only browse through so many channels at a time. Joost is trying to solve this very problem with social interaction. Users can blog about shows, chat with each other and eventually interact in many different ways thanks to a pretty clever metadata framework. It would be great if Miro at least took some steps towards that direction.
Get widgets/plug-ins. Granted, it’s hard to integrate all those functions into your product if you only have 11 people on staff. This is where a widget or plug-in API could come handy. Joost, understanding that this isn’t lean-back TV anymore, unveiled it’s own widget API back in August.
Be more open. Sure, Miro is already open source, and the client can be used to subscribe to any podcast out there. But there isn’t really a way yet for web developers to get involved with Miro. Joost has already inspired multiple developers to come up with their own channel guides. Miro could out-do them by offering direct access to the player. Why not let people load up whatever web page they want as a channel guide? After all, Miro is based on Mozilla code. Integrating HTML pages shouldn’t be too hard. Update: Turns out you can do this already. Just add any channel guide of your choice under “Channels > Add Channel Guide”. Thanks, Frank!
Of course, Joost has some lessons to learn as well:
Open up your catalog. Yeah, we get it. Curated content equals better advertising deals. But seriously, Joost features Hot & Wet Strip Trivia — how much lower could the bar go if they’d open up their catalog for indie video podcasters the way Miro does?
Play local video. Just let me play the videos I already have on my hard drive. Please. That’s not much to ask, is it?
Tear down these walls. Miro lets me watch content from all over the world in 36 different languages, but Joost is unnecessarily geo-restrictive. Where are all the interesting shows from the rest of the world? Where is content from Al Jazeera or the BBC? Joost has people working all over Europe, but compared to Miro the programming looks just like U.S. cable TV.
And finally, a lesson for both of them: One size doesn’t fit all. We’ve had this one box in our living room, serving all of our TV needs for decades, and now it’s supposed to be replaced by one software solution? No way. The competition both Joost and Miro need to be positioning themselves against is the web and its flash video platforms, not one another. Sooner than later they’ll have to put down their knives.