Vene, vidi, Venice — the TV killer

by Mathew on January 12, 2007 · 22 comments

Update 2:

The Venice Project is now officially known as Joost. Why? Because.

Original post:

There’s one thing I still don’t get about The Venice Project, the secretive, TV 2.0, peer-to-peer project being put together by billionaire Skype founder Janus Friis and Niklas Zennstrom to revolutionize the boob tube (Om Malik has an in-depth look here). And that thing is this: Why is it called The Venice Project? Did they think of it in a cafe in Venice? Is the project almost under water? Do Venetians watch a lot of TV, in addition to having invented the Venetian blind? I’m not sure.

What I do know is that the player is very slick (yes, unlike my poor friend Mark Evans, I got an invite to the beta). The content, however, still leaves a bit to be desired. That’s not surprising, of course, but as Tony Hung pointed out awhile back, the bottom line is the content. A really nice interface, with lots of cool features and great useability, is only going to impress people for so long.

So far, the content consists of lots of HBO-type programs — a Green Day documentary, an interview with Nelson Mandela, episodes of The World’s Strongest Man, The World Poker Tour and (somewhat bizarrely) episodes of the old 1950′s television show Lassie. Some of the content comes in crystal clear, just like average quality television, while other programs are somewhat pixelated, like Web video often gets when your Internet speed is throttled.

venice project 4.jpg

As Ars Technica has pointed out, Internet speeds are also an issue The Venice Project is going to have to confront, since plenty of places — including this particular corner of North America — don’t have unlimited fibre-optic connections, and so cable providers like Rogers provide an “asymetrical” connection, which means I get tons of download bandwidth but nowhere near as much upload bandwidth.

Many ISPs also have bandwidth “caps” or limits on how much you can download per month. For a peer-to-peer service like TVP, both of those things are the kiss of death. Ars Technica notes: “watching an hour’s worth of TV consumes an average of 320MB downloaded and 105MB uploaded traffic, due to the service’s P2P architecture.” Someone who watched a lot could use up their entire month’s allotment of bandwidth in no time at all.

Could Robert Cringely be right? In a recent column, he predicted that this year would be “the year the net crashed (in the USA). Video overwhelms the net and we all learn that the broadband ISPs have been selling us something they can’t really deliver.”


As Haydn mentions in the comments, there is a social aspect built in to The Venice Project that I forgot to mention — there are “widgets” built into the application (with more coming in the future), including RSS feed “crawlers” that run along the bottom of the screen and a see-through instant messenger window, where you can chat with friends about what you’re watching.

  • Tony

    Not so sure about “crashing” the internet … with the Taiwan earthquake crisis, we learned that al that extra redundancy by pre bubble telco’s came in handy. I suspect that we probably have some of that around North America, and I wonder therefore, if the crash will come this year at all.

  • Mathew Ingram

    You might be right, Tony — there might be plenty of bandwidth around. But that doesn’t mean Rogers has to let us have any without charging us an arm and a leg for it :-)

  • Tony

    Well, its sympatico for me … at least they don’t throttle traffic (yet). ;)

  • Mathew Ingram

    Not yet, but from what I’ve heard bandwidth caps are likely coming, and it wouldn’t surprise me if bandwidth “shaping” likely is too.

  • Tony

    yeah, they had bandwidth caps for a while a few years ago, then lifted them — thank god. I was going over *all* the time and it was costing me cash money.

    Not looking forward to the day if they do that again, nor shaping — in my opinion its a big lead over Rogers in that respect

  • Matt Hendry

    Why the venice project ???

    Think of lots of streams

    In this case streaming data from datacenters and users computers

  • haydn

    I disagree that content will make or break Venice, though they have invested their public reputation in high end content. Bringing connectivity around content is where the zeitgeist is temporarily resident. I think of the Venice Project more as a TV IRC/Im application which is a bit like saying it’s a non-virtual Second Life.

  • Mathew Ingram

    That’s a good point, Matt — I hadn’t thought of the streams as a Venice metaphor. Good one :-)

    And Haydn, you are quite right about the social aspect, which is something I neglected to mention — how TVP makes it easy to IM or chat with friends about the content you’re watching, with transparent windows that sit right on top of the video. Something that takes it out of the realm of regular TV and makes it TV 2.0

  • Matt

    As Om Malick points out in his article The Venice Preject cliemt is based on Mozillas XUL platofrom and the Venice devepers will release a API in the near future so any develpers can bulid plugins for the service like they currently do with Firefox or Media players .Consider the TVP client to be a TV browser .

  • Mathew Ingram

    That’s a good way of putting it, Matt.

  • Matt

    TV Browser …Is a quote from Dirk-Willem van Gulik ,The Venice Project CTO, in a short video on the technology used in the Venice Project .He also explains in simple terms how the developer community will be able to extend the Venice Project for themselves and add even community features .….html

    Yes this is TV 2.0

  • Juha

    Something like The Venice Project could conceivably tank the shared bandwidth model that ISPs rely on. It’s already under severe strain thanks to P2P.

  • Mathew Ingram

    I agree, Juha.

  • Collin T miller

    Tank the crooked way providers currently sell access?

    Sounds great to me.

    There is plenty of bandwidth, underused infrastructure and overcharging to force providers into their right position as merely packet transporters.

    The same could not yet be said for the wireless industry, though I believe their time will come more swiftly than those with wires.

  • jeremy liew

    I think the content problem is easily surmountable. The social aspects could help crack the download issue. But the bandwidth problem is very real and may cap its eventual penetration levels. I’ve blogged about this in some detail at the Lightspeed Blog – click on my name to read more if you’re interested

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  • charlie

    not asking for invites but since you’ve been testing it, I have a couple questions..have you used any of the other services (tvu player, democracy player for example) and, if so, how does joost compare w/ them? also, what have you heard, if anything, on any possible release date or graduation from beta?

  • Mathew

    Charlie, I have tried the Democracy player and the TVU player, but that was a while ago and they were in early beta so they may have improved. I would say Joost is much better than either one — at least as far as useability goes.

  • charlie

    thanks for the reply. out of curiosity i’ve gone ahead and applied for beta testing. i’m still getting used to the idea of tv on the pc through tvu. in the meantime, i’ll keep reading reviews by people like you who have been kind enough to post your own experiences. thanks and if i have any more questions i’ll be sure to post.

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