To start off, how do you move the video around? Do you have a CDN, or is it straight peer to peer?
Fredrik de Wahl: We have a hybrid peer-to-peer approach. P2P delivery is great for very popular content--for things that are really challenging when you want to have mass distribution. For less popular content, P2P does not provide the best technical solution.
In these circumstances, a centralized distribution mechanism actually has very few problems and provides the best solution for the end user. So what we have done is taken an approach to this where we have a "long-tail storage system" which is acting as a seeding server for the network. The LTS is the originating point in the system and also the fallback in case for some reason the content does not reside on the P2P network. There's absolutely no way [for the user] to determine how and where the user gets the content from and that's the reason we designed Joost like that--the viewing experience is all about getting the content in full-screen, high-resolution, and the technology is acting in the background. The viewer of Joost just gets an extraordinary viewing experience from the technology.
If it's P2P, where does the content actually live on a user's machine? It's not only a P2P network, it's P2P streaming. Everything is delivered to the end user or the viewer in bits and bytes which are a proprietary standard, and each packet is encrypted. Different packets are then cached after being viewed on your machine much like cached Web content from your Web browser, with the difference being that we then pass it on to others when they want to watch it. Everything originates from the long-tail storage server in Luxembourg, and then if the content is also available in caches, the caches will start to chip in. When there's enough content in the different caches, you can stream everything just from the peers. Are these Long-Tail Stations like Skype's "supernode" architecture? Does Joost own them or are they users?
If it's P2P, where does the content actually live on a user's machine?
It's not only a P2P network, it's P2P streaming. Everything is delivered to the end user or the viewer in bits and bytes which are a proprietary standard, and each packet is encrypted. Different packets are then cached after being viewed on your machine much like cached Web content from your Web browser, with the difference being that we then pass it on to others when they want to watch it.
Everything originates from the long-tail storage server in Luxembourg, and then if the content is also available in caches, the caches will start to chip in. When there's enough content in the different caches, you can stream everything just from the peers.
Are these Long-Tail Stations like Skype's "supernode" architecture? Does Joost own them or are they users?The LTS is a server complex we have in Luxembourg at this point. We have a central point in a big server farm that's a central point in this whole network.
How much bandwidth do you need to sustain the high resolution of Joost?
We are today working toward a half-meg DSL connection...the application absolutely works on that. But we are in the beta phase, and there may be circumstances where that's not enough. I normally recommend 1MB even though our specs are built around using half a meg.
So will it work over mobile networks like EV-DO?
The bandwidth of such networks is quite different and the availability of uplink and downlink is a little bit different. However, the technology itself can be ported to such platforms. Our technology has a very platform-independent consciousness. For instance, the client itself is based on Mozilla, a very portable and secure platform. We use an H.264 codec, which is a very portable platform. We're not locked into a PC codec on any platform. Another example is SVG. Our user interface is projected on top of the media with a transparent look and feel to it. So that user interface is made in SVG, a very portable standard for moving to different platforms which is most commonly used in 3G cell phones. For us to go to a new platform, we're talking a development time of weeks, not months, and certainly not years. It's more of when the hardware is available in terms of processing power and storage and when bandwidth is suitable, that's when we would move to different devices.
I noticed a WB logo on your site, is that a content partnership that is already in place? What kind of partnerships are you looking for?
Right now in the test phase, it's important that the content also represent the test phase. We have comedy, sports, and music; content which is very appropriate for the early adopters and beta testers. Examples of content providers are Warner Music, Endemol, a production company, September Films, and indie-car racing. After we grow and invite more people, we'll add more content.
Will you be soliciting user-generated video submissions?
No, that we will not do, for two reasons. We're all about the TV experience--full-length programming, full-screen viewing, and high quality not only in terms of entertainment value but in terms of resolution. All of our programming is put into channels and you never stop viewing something--there's always something following, as with TV. And replicating this TV experience has a lot of value to viewers. People spend a lot of time watching TV still, even though there are a lot of negative things about TV, such as you lock yourself into one location, you lock yourself in time, and there are limited interactive features. We take these TV features, bring them onto the Internet, and empower users with Internet technologies. That said, user-generated content does not really match the fundamental philosophy we have today about the TV experience. We are not in the business of small clips, short clips, and low resolution. And also there are the copyright infringement concerns with these self-uploading mechanisms. We have chosen not to enable that on the platform. That may change in the future when the two big factors--quality concerns and infringement concerns--are solved. That said, we will allow smaller production companies to upload. We're unlocking a huge "mid-tail" section of the content industry which does not have an outlet today.
What process will these small-scale video producers go through to get their content on Joost?
We have a manual startup process--you're in a dialogue with us and you sign a contract, so we have a personal relationship with everyone. Of course, that will not scale so we're automating that process. Due to the fact that different content providers use different formats, this is also an experimentation process for us and the entire content industry and how we'll go digital. Our quality desires are very very high--we are looking for higher-resolution and better quality media that we can transcode into a DVD-like experience on the Web.