January 18, 2007
Joost screen shot with translucent widgets The Joost user interface features several unobtrusive widgets that disappear when the user stops using the mouse and keyboard. (enlarge)

The folks who brought Voice over IP to the masses with Skype are at it again, making Joost the punchy new name for their multicast Internet video system. (The old name, the Venice Project, was even less evocative of what the program did.)

Check out this video clip, which provides as good a demo as YouTube quality can allow. Its in-video UI features the alpha-blended play bar familiar to iTunes 7 users, but with a whole swath of other tools including a live chat room for real-time commentary from the peanut gallery. The high-resolution screen shots show many screens which look unusually busy, though all the widgets disappear when you're not using them.  Finding new content is a matter of scrolling through a spiffy-looking program guide.  Video quality, bandwidth permitting, will probably fall somewhere between standard-definition digital cable and a DVD.

Joost is available in a private beta for Windows only. If a good Mac version comes out, I think Joost could sell tons of Core 2 Duo Mac minis (once Apple uses the latest chip in their mini line, of course). With luck the Joost project will keep in lockstep with the Windows version -- unlike Skype, whose Mac client is always a full version behind its Windows counterpart. An encouraging sign is that Joost's developers use Mac laptops.

One more gotcha: bandwidth. My ISP won't be able to bust me for illegal P2P trading, but they will come after me for bandwidth usage for Joost. While watching TV, Joost uses both upstream and downstream bandwidth. If legal P2P becomes common, I really fear that ISPs will try to packet-shape it to death.