Vene, vidi, Venice — the TV killer

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.

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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.

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