MSFT: Hey, we can do p2p video too

I’m surprised it took this long, but word has filtered out about a streaming, peer-to-peer video application that Microsoft is backing, called LiveStation. Ars Technica got out the megaphone and started yelling about how Microsoft had announced a “Joost killer” — the “fill-in-the-blank killer” being one of the most popular memes in tech-land by far — but the writer of the piece has modified his original post after one of the developers of the app posted a comment taking issue with the Joost-killer angle.

snipshot_e41dp0o6qv1f.jpgAs pointed out by the LiveStation staffer — who actually works for a company called Skinkers, which Microsoft owns a stake in — and by Mike Arrington in his post at TechCrunch, LiveStation just does streaming of live broadcasts and not archived shows, and therefore isn’t a direct competitor with Joost or or the other TV-style apps, which stream archived content. If anything, it’s a competitor with something like Slingbox, which can stream your existing TV signal over the Internet, or with RealNetworks (Om Malik has a typically level-headed post on it). And as more than one person has pointed out already, the key with LiveStation — as with Joost and any other app — is content. Will Microsoft be able to get access to compelling content? If not, then LiveStation will become DeadStation pretty quickly. My friend Steve O’Hear has a review of LiveStation here.

Hey ISP — Joost give me more bits

fibre optic.jpgSteve O’Hear — who also writes for ZDNet on social media — has a great post up at Last100 about how bandwidth-stingy Internet Service Providers threaten to stall many online-video apps such as Joost by throttling the download speeds that their users get. He looks at how some ISPs cut back your bandwidth after you’ve downloaded a certain amount per month, which with video isn’t difficult to exceed, and how some put a cap on downloads period. Many ISPs also use “bandwidth shaping” to restrict the flow of peer-to-peer apps such as Joost and Skype.

This is an issue that is going to become more and more important as Joost and Babelgum and other peer-to-peer video apps become widespread. One thing Steve doesn’t mention is that many ISPs also have ridiculously tiny upload speeds, and this is just as much of a threat to peer-to-peer apps. It’s no good to have a big fat download pipe if the upload is a tiny drinking straw.


Of course, if you live in an area where Verizon’s FiOS is available, you can get 30 megabits download (no details on uploads or whether they use bandwidth throttling). As Cynthia Brumfield notes at IPDemocracy, there’s no such thing as too much bandwidth.

Networks put their money on Joost

joost1.jpgIt may not be a $1.6-billion takeover, but Joost seems to be doing pretty well nevertheless, attracting $45-million in funding from a group of backers — including CBS and Viacom, two of the TV networks it has signed content deals with. Obviously, they have decided that Joost is the horse they want to put their money on when it comes to Internet television. As Om notes, among the other investors are Sequoia Partners (also a backer of YouTube) and Index Ventures, whose partner Danny Rimer made a gazillion or so dollars by investing in Skype before it was bought by eBay. So I would imagine that he probably likes Janus Friis and Niklas Zennstrom just a little bit.

Nick O’Neill of Webpreneur says that Joost is about to pull off “one of the biggest fear-driven deals in history” by playing on the networks’ fear of the Internet, and Kara Swisher says on her Boom Town blog that the networks like it because “It looks and feels like a replication of the old television broadcast model,” which is a point I have also made in the past.

The alarm:clock blog says you will watch Joost, but Adario Strange at Wired’s Epicenter blog says it’s too buggy and too much trouble. And over at NewTeeVee, Om Malik makes some excellent points about the growth of Joost and the weaknesses of the peer-to-peer model for something like video. The bottom line: It may not be as easy to do as it was for voice with Skype. Meanwhile, Heather Green has some comments from investor Danny Rimer about what makes Joost so great.