March 6, 2007

Idea: Joost’s missing feature

Joost LogoI’ve been participating in the beta test of a hotly anticipated new program called Joost. It’s essentially a video-on-demand service from the people who brought you Kazaa and Skype, which uses proprietary technology to make high quality video over the internet as instant as your TV. Unlike video sharing sites such as YouTube, you won’t get to upload your own videos to Joost. They will provide the content through contracts with various TV and movie companies, and show the programs in appropriate Channels. For example, they might have an NBC Channel where you can catch up on episodes of Heroes. Or you might go to the Warner Brothers Movie Channel to watch the movie Batman.

While still in beta, the content is pretty limited. I can watch some National Geographic documentaries, a few episodes of the World’s Strongest Man competition, some Canadian music video programming, and that’s about it. But while Joost is working on adding new content and improving the video technology, I’m still left wondering where the feature is that will make me want to watch video on demand with Joost instead of with, say, my local cable company or other on-demand service. Is it enough that the video starts in 5 seconds instead of 5 minutes like with other high-quality streaming video services? Maybe. But my cable box is even more instant than that. There’s a real opportunity here to make Joost something different and better than television, instead of something that’s as close to TV as possible. That’s where my idea comes in.

I imagine a feature that combines all the best elements of social websites like Digg, the humorous style of Mystery Science Theater 3000, the educational aspect of DVD commentary tracks, the user-contributed spirit of a Wiki, the format of Pop-Up Video, and integrates it all with Joost. It could make even the dullest content interesting and fun to watch, and make the best programming even better. Here’s how it works:

If I have the yet-to-be-named feature turned on, I can choose to use Joost in one of three modes: Writer Mode, Voter Mode, or Viewer Mode.

Writer Mode
Joost Writer ModeIn Writer Mode, whenever I pause the program I’m watching, a window pops up that I can type in. Joost uses a time stamp to remember where I was in the program when I wrote this comment, and also remembers where on the screen I’ve put the window. Then I can type in any comment I want. Preferably, it’s either informative about the particular scene (e.g. “This scene was filmed at Maine North High School in Chicago”), or it’s a funny comment on the scene. I can tag it appropriately as “funny” or “informative” so Joost knows how it’s intended.

Voter Mode
Joost Voter ModeIn Voter Mode, I watch the movie with a window overlaid in which all the comments people left scroll up automatically. I get to vote every comment up or down based on whether I agree that it’s funny or informative or neither of the above. In my illustration, all the comments are white, but perhaps they would be different colors to specify funny or informative. If there are too many comments to reasonably vote on so quickly, I can tell Joost to not show me every comment so that it’s more manageable. I can set the pace myself. Or I can just vote on the ones that jump out at me, ignoring the others.

Viewer Mode
Joost Viewer ModeIn Viewer Mode, I can watch a program or movie with comments turned on. They will show up where and when the commenter specified, and then disappear after a few seconds. Because people read at different paces, I can control how many pop-ups I want per minute. If I say I want 12 per minute, only the 12 highest rated pop-ups will be shown in each minute of the program. I can specify if I want to see just the funny comments, or just the informative comments, or both. I can choose to read the highest-rated comments of all time, or just of the last month or week or day. I could watch the same program week after week and experience it with a whole new set of commentary. And at any time, I can switch to a different mode if I think of a new comment to add or if I want to vote down a lame comment I just read.

It’s possible that someone might have written a highly-rated comment that only makes sense if you’ve read a particular earlier comment that isn’t as highly rated and may not be shown. To make sure this doesn’t happen, the writer can indicate his comment is a “reply” to a specific earlier comment. In this way, a “reply” comment with enough votes to be shown automatically bumps up the earlier comment so it’s also shown.

This could be a lot of fun. Imagine watching a show like Heroes once, and then watching it again with comments turned on to see what other people caught that you missed. Also, this has potential to make programs appealing that people wouldn’t otherwise watch. Joost could worry less about making deals with content providers, because even free content like old copyright-expired movies become entertaining in a whole new way. So much of what makes Web 2.0 great is the community-generated content, and right now Joost offers no new way for the community to interact with its product except passively.

Sure, it does have an integrated chat window, but that’s nothing new that I can’t already do with any of a dozen IM programs. And because Joost offers video on demand (as opposed to live broadcasts), it’s unlikely that I’d be watching in sync with anyone else in a chat room anyway, which limits the usefulness of channel-specific chat. This idea could solve the problem of commenting in real time, and makes sure all the best comments rise to the top.


We’re already working on it. :) So far we have a rough passive version — a few bits of content have “trivia” that pops up at specified timestamps — but we plan eventually to allow timestamped tagging, commenting, annotation, etc., that you can share. It’s precisely this kind of community feature that we hope will set us apart from the rest of the crowd, but we need to get the rest of the platform working first; watch this space, though, as things should get interesting!

You have hit on a great idea. My wife and I really enjoyed pop-up video and I know this would draw us to getting internet video on to the TV

This is a fantabulous idea. I too miss pop-up video (actually, I miss all video on MTV and VH1 these days…) and applying collective commentary on shows like LOST would be a really cool tool I think.

Can you get me a Joost beta account?

Haha, kudos on the Rocky Horror call-outs. I miss those days. ;(

“Like a homesick abortion!”

Oh, sigh.

Is there anyway that I can get a Joost invite for the beta software?

did you informed them about this great idea?

wow. that definitely would be an excellent idea. I also agree that it would make less interesting content fun again; I myself rarely enjoy old movies, but when I have my husband around to tell cool stuff about them, they’re great!

The killer app for this technology would clearly be Mystery Science Theatre 3000 style ‘riffing’ ( Science Theater 3000) - in fact, they should probably just call it riffing and be done with it :-)

It’s a great idea. I’ve always thought that IM would be a killer app for live TV and this is a great (not to mention easier to implement) version for recorded, online TV.

Of course, if Joost gets to millions and millions of users, then the feature might fall apart under the weight of morons, despite the voting mechanism. A good extension would be “always/only seeing comments from contacts.”

Of course, contacts needn’t just include real world friends, but (for example) the New York Times TV Critics, or “the users of Television Without Pity” or - as Dom says, “Mystery Science Theater 3000.” If there was some way that studios could provide “official comment streams” too, that would rule. Like a Director’s commentary, but way less annoying. And less self-congratulatory, preferably!

i love it!!!

Agreed. This could be fun!

My concern: Inappropriate language included in the pop up by the moron contingent of viewers. I am very hesitant to let my 11 year old watch even the most innocent of videos on YouTube because of the foul mouthed comments left by others…So there really needs to be some sort of option to *bleep* out language like that or not show any comment containing that kind of language in your preferences.

Just my 2 cents… :-)

I know it seems like a good idea in theory, but I can’t imagine anyone would actually do this more than once.

I think it sounds neat! We need ideas like this to keep video on the web fresh or it’ll just stagnate.

The exciting thing about the web right now is that things keep on changing as people are consistently topping each other. This is how creativity is born!

That wouldn’t really work because people are neither funny nor informative.

Vsocial is a sharing site like YouTube that has this feature.

There’s no voting, but the rest of the idea is there.

The problem with Joost is that it is trying to create yet another environment to watch video in on your computer.

Youtube has been successful because, while it does create an environment that you CAN watch in, it’s really geared towards allowing you to watch video anywhere - embedding, subscribing, emailing, etc are the killer app in video. Not quality right now.

Just a note to let you know: love your test!

This feature will start getting spammed immediately. As you can tell, a jooced invite is the hottest ticket since gmail started. I’m pretty envious.

Will this service be for pay or for free? If it’s for free, how does the service make money, by adverts, by data mining?

any body please send me a joost
invitation to my email account


I would like to test joost beta.
Please send me a Joost invitation to my mail id.



I want to test joost too :) My mail

Been traveling, missed this. The idea of adding posts and comments is cool (in fact we did it, and didn’t stop with text; we do audio and video posts and comments as well. See

But marking up the videos with annoying popups did NOT sit well with our content creators, who didn’t want their hard work obscured. Don’t forget that without content creators, joost is a lonely place.

We made the comments separately available (click markers on the timeline to see the posts and their comments, and use them to jump around to various parts of the content.) We are also finding that as people use our features to add meaning to the content, it has tremendous search implications (a growing bit of our traffic is coming in from Google now, on organic search terms found in the comments, so people can access audio/video content right from the search results).

Next up for us: getting our technology into mobile devices, and working with offline content, such as dvr, dvd and cd sources.

Carter Harkins

Can anyone pass along a Joost BETA ACCOUNT…
Can’t hardly wait

It reminds of ‘Caption This!’, a sub-site to many moons ago, that was started when MST3K was still airing on the channel. The site took a screenshot of whatever the SciFi channel was airing at the time every 30 seconds, and put it up on a gallery page where fans made fun of the image in a chat-like manner. Capping is still around, if you know the secret handshake, and the fan-run sites have been honed to an artform of extra features galore that SciFi could only dream of. I’ve been a capper for over 10 years. We’re still taking still frames of Kolchak every 30 seconds, though. It’s the price you pay for the sport of smartasses.