A Joost Community?

Alec Saunders pointed to an interesting interview with David Clark, a VP at Joost, talking to CBS about why their service. David points to three areas where Joost is different from traditional WebTV:

– Quality of the picture
– Natural controls
– Integrated community

On the first two there’s no question – it’s a great picture – at least on a 17” monitor. The controls are like wise natural and easy to understand – if a little less responsive than the remote control – which I use to watch multiple channels simultaneously. I also agree with Jackson West that content is still an issues- thought it has gotten more diverse with each release and it’s only a matter of time to do the distribution and advertising deals – as unlike YouTube – Joost is very much in partnership with big media.

It was the community concepts that initially attracted me to Joost – and its here I think that they still need to do some work. The community area is implemented with a series of widgets that sit as transparencies over the show as its running. You can open IM sessions, chat with others watching the same channel, receive info from a news-ticker and rate what you’ve watched – presumably to share with your friends.

Those are good things to do – but I’m not sure they need to be integrated with viewing. First there’s the issue the transparencies somewhat obscure the video – so the value of the activity within them needs to be pretty high. I also wonder if interruption for IM is compatible with viewing high quality content.

The other and I think bigger issue is that many of these activities appear to exist within the closed ecology of Joost users on the system at the same time. This creates temporal and platform dependencies that mean the community will become active only after Joost a lot of users.

It would seem to me that there are a lot more powerful tools to build community than IM or rating. For instance unlike YouTube which doesn’t know about the viewer and distributes it’s content both directly and through widgets embedded on thousands of blogs (like this one), there is always a connection a between the Joost servers and the user viewing content in part to coordinate where the content get served from (it’s P2P at some level) and to manage log on and ad serving. This means that it is at least possible to go way beyond rating and allow users to tag scenes within a video as interesting funny, and to potentially add a comments that would be displayed when ones friends watched the video. 

This removes the temporal elements from the current community offerings, is highly linked to the content and creates incentives to share – both because the tagging scenes is more descriptive and gets viewers to the most interesting content, and because commenting can enrich or poke fun at on-screen content with a level of intimacy with the content that simply is not available in any other medium.

That would create the same incentive to share and proselytize that drove Kazaa and Skype.