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It’s been awhile since I wrote about Joost, but the sudden departure this week of the company’s chief technology officer — which started out amicably and then became a firing — made me want to take a look at the company again. Not that long ago, Joost was the flavour of the month: everyone wanted a beta invite, everyone was talking about how it could revolutionize video, and of course everyone wanted to talk about how Janus Friis and Niklas Zennstrom were going to completely disrupt the TV industry after disrupting both the online music business (with Kazaa) and the phone industry (with Skype).

And then what happened? A bunch of things. But mostly, at least as far as I’m concerned, the network failed to come up with enough compelling reasons to download and install the software, as I wrote here. There was some interesting programming, but not a huge amount. The app was cool enough to use and there were some interesting features — such as the ability to chat about a show while watching it — but nothing that was a must-have. Many of the users I spoke to said they eventually stopped using it and went back to watching TV on the web.

So what is really going on at Joost? I have no way of knowing, but when you have to fire your CTO, that doesn’t send a great message. Maybe it’s because of how Dirk-Willem van Gulik left, and how quickly he wound up going to work at BBC, I don’t know. But this commenter on the NewTeeVee post — who claims to be an insider at Joost — says that things are not going well: “The mood is very bad inside the company, money is running out fast, the cash burn is of course way way too high, and so there is a lot of nervousness. Honestly, I think they are dead.”

So is Joost headed for the deadpool? Mike Butcher at TechCrunch UK says he doesn’t think it will last the year. Apart from the news today that the network has added Star Trek to the service (which should have happened right after launch, let’s be honest), there hasn’t been much news out of Joost for months. That’s not usually a good sign.

Further reading:

NewTeeVee has some suggestions for what Joost can do to build some more traction, including getting more content from Hulu, building a Web version and putting Joost on the Wii. Andrew Baron of Rocketboom says that Joost was doomed from the start, for a variety of reasons. And ParisLemon — a longtime fan — has some thoughts about Joost as well.

About the author

Mathew 2430 posts

I'm a Toronto-based senior writer with Fortune magazine, and my favorite things to write about are social technology, media and the evolution of online behavior

28 Responses to “Is Joost headed for the deadpool?”
  1. Heya.

    I actually subscribe to the Joost blog. They add tons of content on a near-daily basis. Most of it is nominally interesting (most of it should have been added at launch, most of it isn't yet on Hulu), but very few shows have much geek cred (at least that I've seen), or if they have it, they haven't come out on slow news days.

    That said, I'm not a Joost user. I'd love to be, because I much prefer a standalone utility I could run on a box made for my TV than something in a web page. Unfortunately, I can't cheaply make a box that fits the dumb system requirements of Joost. Even my brand spankin' new Dell laptop is lacking something minor in the graphics card department preventing Joost from running properly.

    I want it to succeed. I don't think it will.

  2. As a fan of Joost since the get go I fear you may be right – they've simply failed to garner much buzz beyond their initial pre-launch hype (which as you well know was considerable). If only they could find a way onto a device like the Apple TV…

  3. As with the others, it would certainly be a shame to see Joost disappear. I use it regularly, and have talked about it regularly, too. See a recent post: http://socialsoul.co.uk/2008/01/10/club-music-o

    Making it on to a living-room appliance would certainly help. Maybe that slingbox of tricks? I can't say if it would work as I've never used slingbox.

    It seems no marketing has been done since launch – which directly contrasts with the owner's other (previous) child, Skype. Here in the UK, I always see “mainstream users” knowing what Skype is, and mostly using it. That hasn't happened with Joost – maybe because of that lack of partnerships.

    Fingers crossed. Keep up the great work, Mathew!

  4. I met Dirk-Willem van Gulik once and saw him speak at a conference on another occasion, You know he is also President of the Apache (server) foundation. His knowledge and intelligence is really impressive. I think we will all snigger at Joost for losing a guy like this. I bet that the guys over at the BBC cannot believe their luck. If I was Joost I'd cut my losses and die real soon. Joost does not need a box, neither does YouTube. YouTube has content… and Joost?

  5. I think there's a pretty short hop from this issue to Joe Duck's post about video's main problem being that it's **boring**.

    http://joeduck.com/2008/01/18/the-video-revolut

  6. […] a few companies to emerge as viable businesses? Less competition would be a solid start. Check out Mathew Ingram’s post on whether Joost is cooked in light of its CTO’s […]

  7. I just read this post and fired up Joost to see if they got any new content recently. The program tried to upgrade itself and then relaunched. Then it said the upgrade server was down and I should try to download the program manually. I don't have time for this right now.

    Meanwhile, today I was thinking about stopping by the Apple Store and picking up an Apple TV.

  8. Even if Joost seems like its on the rails at least people are talking about it again and theres nothing like Internet Buzz to increase viewers .

    Joost should really promote their recent addition of Star Trek to the platform to capitalize on this “publicity”.

  9. I got an invite to the Joost beta, downloaded the software, and then did nothing with it. Not sure why other than I get my video elsewhere. I do think, however, that the on-demand, online video market will gain more traction. The question is whether Joost will be around to be part of the action.

  10. […] like today is “whatever happened to Joost?” day, and since I’ve used Joost somewhat regularly, I thought I’d chip in with […]

  11. […] Mathew Ingram and MG Siegler are wondering today if internet TV provider Joost has much of a future. From MG: Well if they’re anything like me, I open it once in a while to see if anything new has been added, maybe watch a few clips, then shut it down 15 minutes later. I love the software, love the usability, but – as Mathew indicates – the content is simply not where it needs to be in order to get people to open up an entire program just to watch. […]

  12. I just read this post and fired up Joost to see if they got any new content recently. The program tried to upgrade itself and then relaunched. Then it said the upgrade server was down and I should try to download the program manually. I don't have time for this right now.

    Meanwhile, today I was thinking about stopping by the Apple Store and picking up an Apple TV.

  13. That kind of says it all, doesn't it :-)

  14. Thanks, Mark — to be fair, I haven't kept up with Joost's blog, so maybe
    there's more going on there than I'm giving them credit for. But it does
    sort of feel as though they have lost some momentum. I wondered even in the
    beginning whether a dedicated TV-style app was the way to go, and I'm
    wondering it even more now.

  15. Thanks for the comment, Matt. Maybe getting onto Apple TV or the Wii or
    something like that might help, but I'm still not convinced. I have to say
    I'm starting to wonder whether Joost isn't a solution in search of a
    problem.

  16. Yeah, I think Joe hit on something there. I often feel the same. Maybe if
    Joost did a better job of pointing you towards the good stuff, but I didn't
    find it was very good at that at all.

  17. Even if Joost seems like its on the rails at least people are talking about it again and theres nothing like Internet Buzz to increase viewers .

    Joost should really promote their recent addition of Star Trek to the platform to capitalize on this “publicity”.

  18. […] Joost in Trouble? […]

  19. […] and post-launch, there are two posts on the net that seriously discuss its death and dissolution: Is Joost headed for the deadpool? and Buzz Doesn’t Pay. Is Joost […]

  20. […] Ingram seems to have started the trend for knocking Joost, with an interesting post in the wake of the firing of the company’s chief technology officer Dirk-Willem van […]

  21. […] Mathew Ingram wonders if Joost is dead. I wonder where the browser-based version they spoke about in October is. Read more here. […]

  22. […] Andrew Baron (of the Rocketboom fame) wrote on his blog about the recent problems with Joost, adding to what Mathew Ingram’s posted about Joost heading for the deadpool. […]

  23. […] category killer for video and covers much of FOD’s short-form UGC comedic content. The video site market is contracting. Bandwidth costs plus 30 employees means Judd Apatow needs to make a lot of movies to spend ad […]

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