By Jimmy Rogers
Contributing Writer, [GAS]
If you’ve been on the Internet for any time at all, you might remember something called “The Venice Project.” Essentially, the founders of Kazaa and Skype tried to come up with a way to bring television to the Internet in a peer-to-peer network that meshed with what the content providers wanted. It was eventually released as “Joost” and thousands of Beta testers jumped on board. Unfortunately, the project kind of turned into a bust. The desktop client was buggy and crashed all the time. Also, the content deals were severely lacking. For this reason, Joost all but went away…until now, that is!
Joost for iPhone (iTunes Link) has just launched and with it a whole new possible future for the application. For the most part, there is still no serious streaming video client for the iPhone. Technically, YouTube has quite a bit of content out there, but very little of it is available for long if it is under copyright protection. The Joost app is really the first application to offer unfiltered access to a large library of content that streams directly to the iPhone.
There are quite a few limitations at the moment, but let’s go over the features first. The interface is actually very good. Finding what you want within the app is quick, as there is both a “Joost Picks” and “Popular” section along with a full search feature. The “Browse” section is also good because it is easier to eliminate clips when looking for full-length films only. On any of these categories, you are shown a preview image of the show as well as a short description.
The player is simple but also very functional. There are central play controls, a resize button, and an “X” button to go back to the main menu or search menu (depending on where you came from). The experience with the player is very smooth. There isn’t a lot of jerkiness because the video buffers for a bit before it begins to play.
All this being said, there are some serious drawbacks to this app. The first thing on my list is that Joost will only work over a WiFi connection. If you’re on the EDGE or 3G network, Joost gives you a cheery error message and waits for you to change your connection settings. While this is somewhat understandable because even on 3G, streaming video won’t be that fast, there is no reason for them to DISABLE the app under non-WiFi circumstances. I wonder if Apple had anything to do with this decision.
Next is the lack of serious content. Unlike some of the other video services on the web (think: Hulu), Joost has only a few media partners. Their catalogue consists mostly of clips that are under 5 minutes and movies that can’t even be given away. While there are some exceptions (the clip above is from part of The Animatrix), it can be a challenge to find something you want to watch.
My last irk about this service is the commercial delivery. One of the primary “What are you doing?” moments I have with most online video is the way that they choose commercials for their content. Often I have begun watching a show that starts with a commercial, only to find that I need to restart the video for some reason. Guess what commercial I get to watch? The same one! This could easily be fixed by a few lines of code, I’m sure, so why hasn’t this been done on MOST video networks?
Sorry for the rant at the end, but sometimes an app needs a kick in the pants. Why am I recommending this service to you? Well, for one it is free, so you’ve got nothing to lose. Also, I suggest you browse around for a while and see if you can find anything you like. Maybe your love of old Bruce Lee movies will trump my own.
Remember, as weak as the content may be, this app is the ONLY decent streaming video solution for the iPhone. While others may not be far behind, Joost is once again serving as a straw man for whatever challenges are to be faced by future mobile streaming services.
Check it out and let us know what you think in the comments!