Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Less Than 1% Real Joost

I've been so enjoying Hulu, the free streaming video site where I just watched the entire first season of "Arrested Development," I completely forgot that I still have a beta membership to its competitor, Joost. I went back over to Joost for the first time in a few months today.

The problems began immediately. See, Joost requires you to download software to watch videos (unlike Hulu, which plays videos right there in your browser). But apparently, the beta software I had downloaded a few months ago was no longer operational, not that there was any actual message letting me know this. So, I deleted the old version and went back to the website and downloaded the newest Joost. The whole operation probably took 5 minutes, but it would have been nice if the old software had just told me to download the latest counterpart, rather than just giving me an error message.

Once I downloaded and started up the software and gave them a lot of information they really shouldn't need, I was ready to watch shows. Unfortunately, there is next-to-no genuinely worthwhile content on Joost. They have a lot of film channels, but they're almost entirely devoted to short films. (One "horror movie" channel was devoted to a few, old public-domain black-and-white horror movies, such as you might find on late-night UHF television in the '80s. Most of these can be obtained on DVD for under $5.) Seriously...this is their heavily-invested business plan? Post a couple of public domain horror movies and some shorts?

I was excited to find, on the Saturday Morning Cartoons channel, some Rocky and Bullwinkle episodes, but they don't even have a single full story arc. (Fans will recall that Rocky and Bullwinkle stories carried over from week to week). Weak.

Hulu, on the other hand, contains whole seasons of its shows, and in many cases, that means the current season. So if I miss "Family Guy," it's streaming, free, online (with a few commercial interruptions so money can be made) a few days later. Now that's in the neighborhood of what I'm talking about.

(I see that Hulu has just added several whole episodes of "What's Happening" to their line-up. Well played.)

So I'm not sure if Joost saw itself as directly taking on Hulu, but so far, it's a total rout. (Not only in terms of content and the pain-in-the-ass of downloading software just to watch videos, but the Joost interface also leaves much to be desired. It crashed once on me, froze my computer temporarily on another instance, and twice, I clicked a video on a menu only to be told that it wasn't currently available.)

Joost calls itself "Free Online TV," but that's using the notion of TV pretty loosely. Most of their content reminds me of what you'd see on a public access channel, or the channel in your hotel room that tells you about all the great amenities, maybe featuring Eric Estrada showing you around the resort, letting you know where the clubhouse is located so you can get clean towels.

It occurs to me now that Joost is brought to you by CBS, a Mahalo investor, and the same VC firm that is invested in Mahalo, so maybe I shouldn't even go ahead with this post...I might make some powerful enemies. But hey, I'm helping out the Joost people. Everyone loves feedback, right?

1 comment:

BradleyB said...

I should have signed up for the Beta when you blogged about it on 12/9. Why is the Lons so smart?!?!?!?!