Janus Friis and Niklas Zennstrom have already changed the world as we know it and intend to do it again with their latest venture, the Venice Project, P2P TV distribution. The Venice Project is their latest attempt to alter the traditional boundaries of media distribution. With KaZaA they reshaped the way the world shares multimedia files and in turn made P2P or online distribution the new paradigm shift. Then Skype, their next salvo into the world’s establishment, suddenly made the world even smaller. Telephone “landlines” became further relegated to a legacy of the past as users could now chat to one another with both video and audio feed for free. Now the Venice Project is taking aim at traditional television, so ABC, CBS, NBC, and FOX beware.
The Venice Project will combine “…professionally produced TV and video with the interactive tools of the Web.” As Friis puts it, “… (what) we are trying to do is marry the best of television with the best of (the) internet.”
This is what makes the project both interesting as well as fascinating. Consider this: television has its own schedule and rules. It exists, as Friis puts it, in “linear time.” Yet, we all know we no longer live our lives in a traditional, 9 to 5, linear fashion like days of old. No more getting off of work at 5, go home, and maybe watch TV’s “primetime.” Everybody’s schedules, for better or worse, are filled with seemingly endless multitasking of the demands of work, family, and friends. To have to factor in TV as well to one’s life is an unwanted additional burden. Sure there are DVRs, but nothing beats the convenience of a PC (look at what you’re doing right now ).
Friis has a good take on it, noting “People like the freedom of choice and like freedom from choice. For example, channels are good, because they define the content. Today, the channels are locked in legacy infrastructure, but on broadband the channels are not locked in time.” TV content, for the first time ever, could be enjoyed at a time and place of ones own choosing.
Imagine the possibilities. No more having to worry about being at a place that has “cable” to check out your favorite shows, simply click and play.
Content can now become global as well, a “TV” platform for the world. No longer will content be restricted by the political or geographical boundaries of states and countries.
What will it be like? Steve Rosenbush over at BusinessWeek online was lucky enough to take Venice for a test drive and had this to report:
To get started, users need to download a piece of software from the Web and install it on their PCs. When they boot up, the software will connect to the Web and open a full-screen window displaying “near high-definition” quality video images.
While the software turns your PC screen into something that looks a lot like your TV, the capabilities go far beyond anything you’ll experience in your den. Jiggle your computer mouse, and a variety of tools appear along the edges of the screen, even as the video continues to play. At the bottom of the screen, there are controls like those on a DVD player, including stop, pause, and fast-forward, as well as a search window to find new videos. An image on the left includes a menu of preset channels. And on the right, there’s a set of interactive tools that let you share video playlists with friends or family. An image at the top of the screen identifies the channel and the name of the clip you’re watching. All of the images can be expanded by clicking on them with a mouse.
When will it be available? The beta’s currently limited to a hundred people or so, but Friis says it will expand dramatically by mid-November with a full rollout to John Q. Public by the end of the year. In the meantime they are taking applications to be a beta tester, with the link at the bottom of this page.
The technology behind the Venice Project is pretty straightforward. They have developed and added a P2P streaming layer to the “Global Index” that forms the basis for KaZaA and Skype as well. Unfortunately, as noted, content will be streamed and not downloaded. They will be using an ad-based system to pay the bills, much like the TV it aims to replace. Content copyrights will be observed and respected, which considering they just had to shell out 100 million dollars to settle the KaZaA ordeal makes sense.
Friis also promised that the Venice Project would not have any of the malware like KaZaA did. He comments, “…there will be no malware.”The Venice Project is designed as a vehicle for high-quality video-based ads.” I hope so. I think everybody’s had a PC that was scarred by KaZaA’s malware at one time or another (Though there is KaZaA Lite).
In any event, the Venice Project sound pretty exciting and may do for or to the TV industry what KaZaA did to the music industry.
If you’d like to signup to be a beta tester for the Venice Project, CLICK HERE.