Joost has announced that it is going to allow third-party developers to add Flash widgets to its video player soon. The Joost Labs blog this week previewed a widget that adds keyword-based Twitter search results to a video. Joost wants to eventually release a widget API that will expose some of the underlying video’s metadata and make it possible to integrate these widgets within the Joost Flash player.
This isn’t the first time Joost is toying with widgets. The company’s P2P-based video application also featured a widget API, but few wanted to develop for a player that had no user base. However, Joost has clearly been thinking about how to make widgets work in the past few years, and some of these ideas could lead to interesting results.
The Twitter widget demonstrated on the Joost blog seems like a nice gimmick, but not really groundbreaking. So why does Joost Chief Creative Officer Henrik Werdelin herald this as the birth of “open-source TV?” Werdelin writes on his blog that the upcoming API will allow users to “create any cool interactive active [sic] TV application on top of any of the shows on Joost.”
Part of that excitement is clearly rooted in the fact that the folks at Joost have spent a lot of time thinking about how to use metadata as part of the Joost viewing experience. Company developers already hinted at the possibility of “timestamped tagging, commenting, annotation” all the way back in the spring of 2007.
Fast-forward two years. The app is gone; Joost is all web-based and Flash-only. However, Joost’s new widget API will give developers access to things like the title and description of the video as well as the current time in the video. That means a widget will be able to know what scene a user is watching, and developers could add widgets that make it possible to add content-specific comments and share them with other viewers.
Granted, some of these things have already been done. Viddler, for example, allows users to add time-specific tags to its videos, and sites like Tubepopper make it possible to add text to third-party videos. Joost’s API, however, will allow a much more direct interaction with the actual video, to the point where widgets will be able to stop and restart a clip. One could easily think of a widget that makes it possible to add an episode guide to a TV show like Lost, pausing at key scenes and explaining references to past episodes with content added by the community.
Of course, Joost doesn’t have Lost, or barely any other popular TV show for that matter. Judging from the site’s activity stream, the most popular clips on Joost seem to be music videos and anime episodes. We’ll have to wait and see whether that inspires developers to come up with any exciting, new widgets this time around.