Neokast, Emerging from the Shell

It’s highly appropriate that Neokast, the still-mysterious streaming video startup, is showing a bit of its chops by supporting a live stream of some eagles hatching in the wild.

Cautiously, slowly, Neokast is emerging from the egg, almost ready to fly. Yet we’re still not sure what’s going to keep this bird aloft. And we promise, thus endeth the bad nature-flick metaphors.

Following their public intro via a highly laudatory profile from tech headliner Robert X. Cringely, the Neokast gang played to rave reviews at the VON show in San Jose in mid-March. Since then, according to Neokast team members we spoke with Thursday, it’s been non-stop meeting-taking and working-on-the-now-overdue beta coding, while trying to get some word out about their planned personal streaming technology without giving too much away before it’s really ready.

“Don’t be surprised when you hear some big business-related news from us in the next couple months,” said Adam Johnson, Neokast CEO, in a Skype-based conference call Thursday that was arranged by Neokast folks, who seemed like they wanted to talk more… but then couldn’t. What is next on the probable horizon? Maybe a video portal deal, since Johnson did say “there are definitely companies out there, with portals, who are interested in using Neokast on the back end.” At least one thing is clear — Neokast isn’t planning on being a media company itself, but instead a technology enabler.

But what exactly is Neokast, and how does it work? Still a puzzle, though some of the pieces are emerging.

“We’re keeping the technology pretty tight,” said Johnson, which is a bit of a challenge since Neokast has to show some people what’s inside the kimono to start signing deals with real money attached. So far, the most concrete company info has emerged on the Neokast blog, where we recently learned that the company signed Jeff Jacobs, an alumni of Oprah Winfrey’s Harpo Inc. production company (spell Harpo backwards) to help the Chicago-based gang of college whiz-kids sign business deals.

The blog is also where Neokast starts to tell a bit of how its implementation works — in an April 1 post (which it claims is not a joke) Neokast says it has “implemented an efficient multicast-type experience without turning on multicast support in the routers.” The post goes on to elaborate:

Unlike BitTorrent or Joost, our protocol is “polite.” Our “bread and butter” is our set of flow-control algorithms that help our Neokast Stream Player play well with networks and applications you’re currently running.

And more:

For example, we give a preference to local peers wherever possible, allowing a single copy of a live stream to come through your ISP gateway. This copy then ricochets around inside the local subnet, thus limiting the local ISP’s Internet bandwidth hit to be not much more than the typical 700kpbs. This trades inexpensive intranet bandwidth for much more expensive Internet bandwidth.


We also use a varying combination of TCP and UDP packets which looks to your ISP a lot like web surfing. Our efficient protocol makes ISP “traffic shaping” completely unwarranted and unnecessary, since there is no additional “traffic” to be shaped. If anything, we could become a model for others to follow.

If nothing else, the Neokast lads know how to talk streaming video, and understand some of the market concerns. But they also understand that they can’t play the bemused college startup guys for too much longer, because other streaming options, like Ustream and Stickam, are supporting real people doing real things, instead of smoke, mirrors and eagles.

“There’s a lot going on with live streaming, and people are becoming more familiar with it,” said Johnson, lauding Justin.TV for finding “an underlying demand [for live streaming] that wasn’t visible before.”

What Neokast wants, Johnson says, is to make live-streaming technology available to a wide audience, business and consumers alike, to produce “potentially explosive results.” The next public display of Neokast streaming live stuff might come at the Silverlake Film Festival, where they are a sponsor and they say: “we have a bunch of Neokast-related fun plans… so stay tuned.”

Well, at NewTeeVee that’s all we do, is stay tuned. And… well, we’re waiting!