I’ve been an occasional user of Joost since around 6 months ago when I got the first invite only version to work on my Mac. This week, Joost released the first public beta and came out of the closed testing cycle.   What amazes me about the this beta is not so much the video quality, but the incredibly good sound quality. On my Logitech Freepulse headphones, the sound is on most programmes indistinguishable from the CD’s ripped onto iTunes (AAC, 128kbps).JoostAs this picture shows (with Joost running in Windowed mode) the picture is certainly up to DVD quality. Expand to full screen, and the compression artefacts become more evident. On my SLT ADSL connection, a rate of 75kbps on average gives me video and sound with only the extremely rare jitter or breakup.

Programming selection

Choice of programming as of now is no real competition to terrestrial TV. But if the makers are to be believed, more programming and of a more serious nature will give soon to be launched IPTV services like SLT’s IPTV a run for their money. Question is, whether SLT will throttle services such as Joost to capture market share in a new and untested market segment.

There seems to be some discrepancy between the channels on the Joost website and what’s really available through the P2P based programme (at the time of writing, CNN is unavailable through Joost though it is featured on the website). There’s also some advertising that occurs between programmes – though it’s much less, per hour, than terrestrial or cable TV.It remains to be seen whether Joost will prove a better economic model than Skype (both were built by the same programmers).

It also remains to be seen whether small, independent content providers will be able to access Joost’s programming platform, in the same manner as YouTube, which I feel would be necessary if Joost is to become a viable platform (wherever the bandwidth is available) for the dissemination of content founded on public service broadcasting values (and also as a viable replacement for the archaic video platform UNESCO uses).

Joost is a technical masterpiece, but whether it will succeed in markets outside the US will be based on how localised it can get with programming to suit regional and domestic markets globally. Literally and metaphorically, a programme to keep one’s eye on.

Download Joost here.

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