Skype to reach for TV market with Joost

Posted by Mark Raby

Chicago (IL) - Skype has unveiled a project that will bring TV to computers and the Internet to TVs in a massive undertaking by the new Skype subsidiary Joost.

Previously known by the codename The Venice Project, Joost (pronounced "juiced") will initially focus on offering free ad-supported online video content that is submitted from content providers like record labels and TV networks.

To set itself apart from other blockbuster services like Youtube, Joost is designed to add TV-like functionality, and "online interactive benefits" to the user experience, essentially turning a PC into a free DVR. Already, 150 people are employed for Joost, at offices around the world in five different countries. According to media reports, the company has already set up a deal with Warner Music.

An easy-to-use, nice-looking interface is part of what made Skype such a success, and co-creators Niklas Zennstrom and Janus Friis are trying to reinvent that formula for Joost. Friis and Zennstrom also created Kazaa, the top file-sharing site after Napster fell down. They contend that Joost will offer the same success as Kazaa, but without the piracy issues.

Developers will have open access to the software, to allow for customizable plug-ins and other interactive features, which is part of the growing success of Internet browser Firefox.

The Associated Press reported that in Joost's future could be an expansion to actual TV sets to fit in with the strong trend of Internet-powered TV features. However, for now, Joost will be strictly a PC-based application.

Much of Joost is still clouded in mystery, as the company begins to look for beta testers through an online application at joost.com. It seems the project is still on track from what it was at its inception. An early blog post from Joost's site reads, "we're fixing TV; removing artificial limits such as the number of channels that your cable or the airwaves can carry and then bringing it into the internet age; adding community features, interactivity, etc."