It's the out-of-alpha-into-beta form of the Venice Project. Still bemused? The Venice Project was a cool codename for an online television system, and in reality came from a hotel conference room: not one Cornetto required. Now it's called Joost (joost.com) which, if it's Dutch, should start with a Y sound and rhyme with host, or toast. (Try "yohst".)
This may not sound too cool to you, but it probably does to the co-founders, Niklas Zennstrom and Janus Friis. And before you skip the rest, those are the guys who launched the peer-to-peer music-sharing system KaZaA and the peer-to-peer telephone system Skype. Thus they have already shown that you can become disgustingly rich via P2P networking. Not many people are willing to bet against them hitting three jackpots in a row.
Joost is billed as "a new way to watch TV, free of the schedules and restrictions that come with traditional television. Combining the best of TV with the best of the Internet." However, it is not just another YouTube nor a rival for dozens of other ways to share short video clips. The ambition is to provide a full-screen television service where users can do things like change channels - a streaming service, rather than a file download service. This needs a lot of bandwidth. Even with digital compression, it could easily consume a gigabyte per hour.
On its blog, Joost says its (of course) P2P software downloads a maximum of 320MB per hour and uploads up to 105MB per hour. "We've made what we think is a reasonable tradeoff between the quality of the picture and the bandwidth usage, but this is full-screen TV-quality video - so there are limits on how low we can keep bandwidth usage while delivering good picture quality." Internet service providers will either be starting to worry (if their users have uncapped accounts), or dreaming of the money they will rake in for excess data charges as users blithely smash their monthly 1GB and 3GB data caps.
Content is, naturally, thin at the start of the beta service. The intention is that Joost will offer programmes from the leading TV networks, with deals yet to be announced, and with digital rights management (DRM) where required. There will also be paid adverts.
Users will be able to create their own TV channels and upload their own programmes, as well as using the net to chat among themselves.
And Joost will cross national boundaries. The company, founded by a Finn and a Swede, operates from Luxembourg - the centre of the European TV industry - and already has offices in five countries. That should amuse the TV regulation bodies.
But if it doesn't work? Well, Friis and Zennstrom have not given up their day jobs at Skype.
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