Joost Launches Flash Version For Browsers: Easier But No Hulu

imageOnline video site Joost is finally, officially easier to use. The Flash-based, download-free version for browsers can be accessed now but the full-featured version is supposed to launch at midnight. Joost boasts of having the “largest online library of legal video programming.” The company says it has doubled the number of videos in the past 10 months to more than 46,000 with a 50 percent increase in hours for a total of more than 8,000 hours. Content partners include investors CBS (NYSE: CBS) and Viacom; Sony (NYSE: SNE) Pictures Television; Warner Bros. Television Group; the NBA; PBS and a number of international providers.

The lack of download may be the biggest change for those of us who were early beta users and went though multiple iterations. (The logins still work.) At some point, one of the downloads didn’t work with my setup and I finally gave up, saving me from Hollyoaks. The browser-based version also includes more “user expression” — the download versions never seemed to hit enough critical mass for social networking to really take off. But Joost is working with a long list of third-party platforms include Facebook, Digg, Delicious and Netvibes. Some of the new features:

— The JoostFeed is a lifestream of sorts, showing all Joost activity for the user, friends or for everyone. It can be viewed on Joost or exported to other social networks. Joost also will implement Facebook Connect. Users can interact with other through comments, tags and “shouts.”

— A new programming guide dividing the content by shows, music and film. Each area is subdivided into main genres; shows are divided into subgenres.

Easier but no Hulu: Joost had a head start on Hulu in terms of time and hype but the News Corp-NBCU JV is well ahead now. Seeing the difference is as simple as watching the same clip on each service.One of the biggest differences: I can use Joost to catch up on CSI; CBS isn’t on Hulu although I can access it through Hulu’s directory, which sends viewers to CBS or CBS HD. You won’t find House on Joost or Saturday Night Live, although Mr. Bill is on hand. (The NYT says NBC scuttled a deal for SNL.) Joost has a handful of clips from The Daily Show as I write, while Hulu has 15 full episodes and 30 clips. Another: on Joost, sharing means sending an email, not embedding or clipping. Neither looks great in full-screen but Hulu is clearer. Release.

For comparison, a Joost clip from The Daily Show and the same clip below from Hulu.