Website review:

6 Oct 2007

Most people’s experience of television on the internet doesn’t stretch further than YouTube and its vast bank of short clips from TV shows, movies and music videos among the user-generated content.

What about if you actually want to watch a TV show from the internet?

Well, it has been established that the Apple iTunes store has a great selection of television shows and movies for download from the net to watch later offline — but not for us Europeans.

The traditional television model is changing and people want television on demand and greater choice. The combined possibilities of the worldwide web and broadband speeds should have led to something like this a lot sooner but nevertheless here it comes: Joost.

Joost is basically free online streaming television. It has been in private testing since late last year but was released this week for public consumption.

A once-off download and installation of the Joost software is needed, along with a registration to the service and you’re ready to go.

This is not like YouTube where viewing is limited to a small window inside an internet browser. You view content through the Joost platform in fullscreen mode or smaller screen if you wish.

First off, the whole point of this is to watch what you want when you want and to be perfectly honest this is free so I didn’t expect it to be chock full of shows from big media corporations like Lost or Prison Break.

And whatever about the sites claims that there are over 15,000 shows, this, like most promises, is for the Yanks. Because of different copyright for different regions worldwide we simply can’t expect to have the same choices.

Flicking around, or channel surfing, on Joost I came across a large variety of channels and content, but it is quite an eclectic offering. It would keep me occupied for a few hours alright but there wasn’t anything there that would continually drive me back.

I suppose we have to wait until the bigger TV players come on board with more mainstream content.

Having said this there are some really cool indie channels, like Irish-owned Wildlight and Wildwave for alternative film and sports respectively.

I also stumbled upon Happy Tree Friends of MTV fame and a channel dedicated to silent films that was playing a Charlie Chaplin classic.

I was surprised to find full-length music videos from mainstream bands on some of the many music channels — this is something that would bring a lot of younger people back, as well as the extreme sports programmes.

The service is free but paid for by advertising, like traditional media. However the advertisements are small, widget-like appearances that pop up unobtrusively at the bottom of the screen and are interactive. I noticed some by Coca Cola, Nike and Fanta and I have to say they didn’t bother me as they are easily ignored.

Some channels have regular ads in between programmes, giving the feel of ‘real’ television.

The interface is very ‘Web 2.0’ in appearance, shiny, pretty and with customisable features like RSS feeds, ratings widgets and chatrooms for individual channels.

What’s cool about this customisation is that you can drag and drop programmes you like to create your own channel so that you don’t need to go searching each time you tune into Joost.

I really liked the interface and found it very intuitive to use. The controls for flicking, browsing, volume and so on are semi-transparent and fade away when you stop hovering over the area with your mouse.

I suppose the only problem really is the fact that your broadband connection needs to be pretty solid, otherwise your streaming programmes will start juddering — which is extremely annoying.

Joost is an interesting development in the merging of television and the internet and although it is a pretty cool application already I can see it getting better through adding more content that will draw a mainstream audience.

By Marie Boran