December 28, 2006 |
Some months ago I caught wind of a tightly locked venture called The Venice Project, spearheaded by the individuals responsible for unleashing the most downloaded P2P file-sharing software, Kazaa, in the world, and giving millions the opportunity to snub the world’s phone companies, offering free VOIP to anyone with a PC-compatible microphone and a broadband connection. Janus Friis, Niklas Zennstrom and gang even gave Skype users in the US and Canada free calling to mobile and land-line phone subscribers for most of 2006 to up their user base to fend off angry corporate entities. Free-as-in-beer won’t be around for much longer, however. The Skype team is allegedly set to end the binge next month. Call Grandma without charge while you can!
But let’s put Friis’ first two wildly successful products aside, at least for a few minutes. Because what’s coming might just turn out to be their best yet. That’s saying a lot, but I think I’ll stick to those words. Their work in progress looks quite promising.
I intended to carry you into the final holiday stretch of the year with a “heads up” announcement of The Venice Project at the end of last week. After all, the tech world was eating the recently-released beta up by the spoonful and pushing out the reviews like their monthly hit counts, well, counted on it, and I figured I should get on board the buzz train. But, as you can see, I decided to wait it out. Whether the choice was wise is really up for the all-powerful reader (that’s you) to decide, but I think it was the right move. Why?
There’s a lot to be said about hype and pop news; the blogging community follows veteran journalists, of course, but many of us are now entirely comfortable with supplementing press releases and expert reviews with rumor scoops and the like. That’s OK, the balance is healthy for everyone – including the manufacturers in the biz – but then the analysis machine needs to start its own engine to weed out the bogus and make sure the latest and greatest really are the latest and greatest. Some of Profy’s best work is in this sector, so in honor of keeping it real, lets give The Venice Project a shake and see what’s what.
The Word on The Street
From GigaOm to BusinessWeek, the word on The Venice Project is: They’ve done it again. Om Malik, as revered a geek as he is “cranky”, loves the program’s ease of use, and calls its visuals “stunning and crisp.” BusinessWeek takes a conservative, more numerical approach to the Friis-Zennstrom item, stating the pioneering duo can only guarantee another success by playing nice and friendly with Big Media, offering a better product that’s as easy – or easier – to use than the domineering digital hit, iTunes.
Everyone likes to play it safe, as it’s clearly evident we’re moving swiftly into Bubble 2.0. But telltale signs do emerge to signify who’s special and who’s not. The Venice Project is already being branded a first-rate star. In ’99 that would tell you to maybe stay way, but now you can fairly safely jump in with both feet.
I haven’t tried The Venice Project out for myself. I signed up for the beta many weeks ago, but no dice. I’m left to scope out papers, magazines, and blogs as references, just like you guys and gals. That’s alright with me. Being on the same level can be beneficial to us both. So without further digression, how about a tour of this much anticipated piece of kit?
What Is The Venice Project?
Television. Free television, actually. Call it a TiVo killer, a YouTube killer, the death knell for cable and satellite TV; whatever you want. It could be all of those, or it could be none of them. What makes it special is not the content it’s delivering or the prowess with which it does do that very thing. Apple would say, “been there, done that”, and CBS would tout InnerTube as its own answer to online video. Rather, it’s the little things that make it shine brighter than the rest.
Like its UI, and its space-saving intelligent streaming. They’re equally good. Great, even. You don’t need a terabyte worth of disk space to enjoy a large library of shows, movies, etc. All you need to have is an Internet connection with a throughput of a few megabytes per second. You can get that just about anywhere, really.
Sure, bugs are bound to surface over time, but if the presence of holes made software developers hold off on dispatching their goods to the world, we’d be going nowhere fast. As long as the problems in the source aren’t crippling and upset the user enough to shun the product altogether (Such abysmal results are quite difficult to achieve when you’re dealing with something that’s free.), it’s ready to be shared with the masses, albeit usually with the requisite ‘beta’ stamp nowadays. (Coming in 2008: Toyota Camry (Beta)!)
Is The Venice Project going to cause much of a stir, or even move any ground in the online video distribution genre? That isn’t for folks like myself to decide; it’s up to you and lots of folks that rely on iPod-easy utility to make it a hit. Chances are the Danish duo are going to thrice work the viral line with TVP, and hopefully, it does reach tens of millions of computers in a year’s time or so. It’ll only create more competition, making sure the brains at Apple, Microsoft, and other operations don’t take their high-flying status for granted. I wouldn’t be surprised if they even eclipsed today’s mainstays. I can fathom this bit of software – with the right mix of content and with a very affordable tiered pricing scheme – making a lot of headway, even undercutting tradition media channels.
Of course, lawsuits will be flying left and right if that should happen, but with mainstream acceptance comes the financial incentive for Big Media to forgo attempts to bat this purported wonder down and get on board instead. If you need convincing of the effectiveness of “shock and awe” to ensure the meteoric rise of an Internet success, a look at YouTube’s recent history will make you a believer in guerilla, user-generated marketing in short time.
Still, ‘yet’ is a term thrown around quite profusely when it comes to The Venice Project. Om Malik is noticeably hesitant to give the service five stars, saying there’s “no point hooking it up to a big screen TV…” with no “live” content being delivered to the select few beta installs doled out to industry influentials. Still, the collective word is that The Venice Project will be good, and if the point-and-click simplicity of Friis’ and Zennstrom’s past sensations migrates to live and recorded video, then, well, all I have to say is: Beware cable TV. Beware satellite television. Heck, beware YouTube. 2007’s looking to be a great year, don’t you think?
The Venice Project
Note: Screenshots sourced from GigaOm.