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On 23rd of April 2015, Mihai Șucan passed away due to metastatic cancer caused by RDEB.

My name is Mihai and I work on the Firefox developer tools. When it comes to web development, I like both server-side and client-side work. I am mainly interested in web browsers, web standards and related technologies.

Joost - first impressions

Yesterday I was able to test Joost - the interactive TV application, also known as The Venice Project. Someone from #joost invited me.

The project is still currently in beta-testing, and the offered content is somewhat limited for the moment.

I initially expected the application takes way too much bandwidth for my Internet connection to handle. This was because I read some article about it (I don't consider I have "a really fat pipe"). However, reading about Venice's Bandwidth Usage my fear was dismissed. I can download about 550 MB per hour (I have a 1.5 mbps connection).

The installation was quick and easy.

The application itself does not feature too much bling-bling as I expected.

The graphics are mostly made with SVG (Gecko-based application). I believe the design needs further improvements - more bling-bling and not only: it has to be more beautiful.

The application doesn't seem slow, but... I can't tell this for sure. I tested it on Intel Core 2 Duo E6700 - even slow applications are fast on this computer. :)

I am looking forward for the Linux version. This way I will be able to test Joost on a much slower computer: AMD Athlon XP 1800+.

Very quickly I had the following feature requests:

  • Video controls for hue, saturation, brightness and contrast.
  • For fancy people: video effects. It would be nice for us to be able to control the sharpness of the image. Image color invert would also be good.
  • Video subtitles.
  • Localisation: I want Joost in French.
  • Audio equalizer.

Video quality is "good", but not "awesome" or "great". I think Joost should offer the ability of selecting the quality. Instead of downloading just 320 MB an hour, why not download 450 MB an hour? Allow us to select the quality, then most users will be happy. Those who have slower connections would be happy to see videos. Those who have "fat pipes" would be happy to see awesome video quality.

On my connection playback went smooth, without any hiccups.

For now, the available content is not "great" for me. This is perfectly acceptable, since it's still in beta-testing. A lot more content is promised to come. What I saw and I liked were a few National Geographic documentaries. :)

The fact Joost is a stand-alone application, not a web application, creates expectations (at least for me). I expect to see something jaw dropping. Joost is not jaw dropping, it's just nice and very promising. Being Gecko based, this application could have been done as a Firefox-only web application, with an installable extension.

What contributed to the succes of YouTube is also it's only a simple web site where you can quickly search and play what you want, when you want. For now, I could easily say "eh, I am not going to download Joost just to watch some advertising and some videos. I am not a TV addict!". Thus, Joost must offer something soo great that makes people download and install an application just to watch a video.

What I also like about YouTube: no advertising in the videos. All the advertising in the web page can be removed with simple URL filtering. If Joost will have too much advertising, users will be driven away.

Personally, I don't watch TV - on a regular basis - I don't like it due to tons of advertising. Sometimes, when I am bored, I like to watch whatever I find on YouTube.

I told some of the developers in the channel that the available content is what "makes or breaks" Joost. However, I think it's worth noting that even if you have the greatest content EVER, within a buggy, ugly, useless application, you'll quickly loose all the popularity. Gladly, as I see Joost for Windows is already past this technological burden. This is the simple reason why I consider Joost promising: they made a good application. Yes, Joost still needs improvements (the graphics and some features), but it's mostly OK.

What I did not like is that video seek has some problems. It didn't work properly for me...

I did suggest that Joost provides/includes all the content on YouTube and Brightcove - based on some deals. This would be a big boost to the application itself, users probably discovering YouTube via Joost, or simply liking to use Joost instead of the YouTube site. This is of course a rather "hard" deal, because Joost is practically a competitor to YouTube and Brightcove.

Currently I see YouTube as a site where one can find home made videos, amateur videos, a site for hosting videos made even by professional digital artists (seen some demo reels there) - generally it's all user content ("broadcast yourself"). Brightcove has videos by "the industry", music videos, and other commercial content. Joost focuses on TV-like content: 1-2 hours of documentaries, live concerts and movies. I would better like if Joost could unify all of them: provide us with TV content (full length movies), music videos and user contributed videos.

After all, maybe not allowing user content is what will make Joost successful.

That's about all for now.