The New Joost: Like Hulu, But Social

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Om broke the news today that Joost is abandoning its full-on client for a browser plug-in, falling in line with the way of the web (aka Hulu). We’ve had a chance to poke around the password-protected site, and here’s some of what we saw.

The plug-in is a 18.6 MB download, and it installed fine on my Mac. The site seems especially driven by a social experience. One of my problems with Joost all along has been its lack of an organized, chronologically ordered, hierarchical program guide, and that’s still the case. But now content discovery is more socially oriented, with the home page including a Facebook/FriendFeed-like activity feed of what everyone is watching on the service at the time (users can opt out of being included in this if they wish). Users can friend each other and join groups, though there’s no internal messaging system. There are, though, a lot of RSS feeds — for anything and everyone.

The video-watching interface is pretty slick, with a 16×9 default player. Video looks good and starts extremely quickly, but the quality isn’t above and beyond the rest of the web.

And, of course, the other difference between Hulu and Joost is that Hulu still has more premium content.

20 Comments

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Hendrik Rood

@Sam_K
Joost is indeed a P2P program and it also supports livestreaming P2P.

It effectively works as follows:
When you view a program, small encrypted packets of videocontent are called to your client (locally installed now, part of a browser plug-in in the new version) from other computers and some caching relay servers that are installed around the world.

The videopackets you view are cached on your local harddrive in a “heap”. If there is demand from other viewers roughly in your network neighbourhood (Joost operates some P2P algorithms that avoids to call in packets from a machine at the other side of the globe) you send packets out too.

With my Joost client the cached heap went up to about 1 GB, but then seemed to operate in a FIFO mode (the heap did not grow further in size).

The advantage of P2P is in particular during mass events with live streams, like the opening of the Olympic games. In that case many people look at the same content, so the packets are in many heaps and load on central servers can be kept down to a few. This contrasts with non-P2P streaming, where in such cases central server loads go up to hundreds of thousands of parallel streams.

When you have a sufficiently broad Internet Access pipe and the (encrypted) packets are reasonably small (e.g. the Ethernet MTU packet size of 1500 bytes), livestream delays are acceptable. For a 500 kbit/s / 60 kByte/s videostream you’ll receive about 40 packets per second of 1500 bytes. So there is quite some “wiggle room” for a P2P distribution with at most a 1 to 2 second delay, considering that with 32 P2P-splits you’ll could reach 4 billion devices. That is a number that is far larger than the current Internet host count and equals the current human population in possession of a (mobile) phone.

Considering that the largest livestreaming events around the world are viewed by near 2 billion people (Olympic ceremonies, Soccer world championship finals etc.) a P2P approach is the most logical and efficient route to go.

As could be glanced from the Beijing Olympics, where the Chinese supplied livestreams via PPlive (also P2P), the current largest viewer bases are nearing the 1 million (still a 2^10 scale down from the ultimate global viewer base to be expected in an all digital TV over IP distribution environment).

Companies active on the Internet attempt to outrun the more “classic” approach of IPTV, which requires operator control over IP Multicast routing and strict bandwidth guarantees, while a P2P approach with local cache buffers is a bit more tolerant of bandwidth variation at the cost of some delay.

There has been some math done in the past on the total amount of professional TV content, viewing time per day and viewer bases, which indicates that it is far more efficient to put it in local P2P.

This math however does not apply for most UGC that is only requested by a rather small group (hundreds or mere thousands of viewers for a particular clip over one or two years).

As the real pay-off of deploying P2P technology is in handling massive viewer bases for live videostreaming, the fact that many of the current P2P videoclients continu to run in the background, is illogical. Effectively, one can argue that browser-based plug-in software, that is only active during viewing time, already suffices to deliver most of the distribution efficiency benefits of P2P.

Sam_K

Can someone explain how the Joost P2P works? Their service uses each user’s computer as a client and server for content?

Casi

It’s a step in the right direction for Joost to move to a browser based model. Lycos Cinema is another browser-based site for watching movies, television, and other professional video content, and has developed unique interactive elements including technology that lets users watch programs online with friends at the same time, from multiple computers, and chat online while doing so – creating a truly social experience for online video.

random_graph

@Frank
Remember Joost is P2P, and for that a download component is required, that can take the form of a full-on application installation, or it can be delivered as a browser plug-in. It looks like they’re simply opt-ing for the lighter-weight browser plug-in concept.

In reality, a plug-in can have as many install and upgrade challenges as a standalone application. We’ll see how it works out in this case.

Om Malik

@Frank

A lot of it is to do with the quality of the issue. I saw some of it and it is pretty awesome evenon bigger screens like the 24-inch iMAC

Tim Street

It’s hard for companies to give up the power of the application download but people don’t want to download, they just want to watch.

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