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02/26 2007 | 01:29 PM
Posted by: Janko Roettgers
Bittorrent.com launched their commercial download store today - a move that has has been awaited with lots of scepticism. But let's take a look and see for ourselves.

First of all, the store is purely web-based. There is no client integration yet. This might please some more advanced Bittorrent users - but those aren't really the target audience of the store anyway.

bittorrent download store

The Bittorrent.com website seems to be a little overwhelmed right now, spitting out server errors at random. Video preview streams are also stuttering. So there seems to be interest, but obviously not enough server power to handle it.

The site features 5000 titles for sale or rent. The biggest supplies seem to be Fox, Warner Bros. and Image Entertainment with some hundred titles each. TV episodes are for sale for 1.99 USD, while movies cost 2.99 to 3.99 USD. The higher price is supposedly for newer titles, but I guess somebody forgot to tell Fellini. There is also some TV show episodes available for rent, so pricing isn't really all that consistent.

bittorrent download store

Content in general is a mixed bag. Bittorrent definitely has popular movies and TV shows, and some folks might appreciate their selection of Japanese horror flicks - or even the Showtime-type softcore the site features in their "mature" section.

But there is also lots of outdated and odd stuff. Are folks really gonna pay four bucks for civil war films from 1915? One could argue that this is the long tail, but more cynical minds would probably suggest that Bittorrent wanted to inflate their catalog numbers.

All the downloads are protected by Windows Media DRM, and virtually everything is US-only. The biggest disappointment to me is the HD section tho. Torrent downloads obviously make a lot of sense for HD content, but the site only features three HD movies for sale.

Of course you still can find lots of free but less legit HD content throgh Bittorrent.com. The original Torrent search engine is more hidden than before, but a click on "web results" reveals Torrents from Torrentreactor, The Pirate Bay and similiar sources. Bittorrent's filters seem to be working tho, so you won't find any of the content for sale as a free download - at least not on Bittorrent.com

Overall I'm not too impressed with the platform so far. I'm downloading a paid TV show episode right now. The downloads are reasonable fast and entirely served by Bittorrent's servers - so it's not really clear why I would need a P2P client for this. I'll do a little more testing during the day and write some moe about my experiences later.

02/25 2007 | 01:55 PM
Posted by: Janko Roettgers
Bittorrent.com is about to relaunch as a download store in a few hours. Right now the home page is telling us to check back later:

bittorrent relaunch

CNet and Torrentfreak have more details about the relaunch. The essentials in a nutshell:

The plaform will be called "BitTorrent Entertainment Network" and offer 5000 paid downloads. Movies will be rental-only and cost 3-4 dollars. TV show episodes will be download to own and cost 1.99 USD each. All content wil be protected by Windows Media DRM. No words on territorial restrictions yet.

Check back later for a full review.

02/23 2007 | 04:48 PM
Posted by: Janko Roettgers
Azureus beat Bram Cohen’s Bittorrent venture to the punch when they soft-launched a Torrent-powered content platform in December. Zudeo.com features film trailers next to semi-professional HD content and has since seen 1 million visitors.

All these folks will soon have to learn a new moniker, because Azureus is about to pull a Venice Project on us. Continue reading at Newteevee.com.

02/21 2007 | 08:06 PM
Posted by: Janko Roettgers
I know, it's been awfully quiet around here lately. I'm spending a few days in the Bay Area hanging out with friends and family, celebrating New Year, playing Wii and completely ignoring all my news feeds.

Today I finally had to do some work, so I drove down to the Valley to talk to some P2P vendors. I also visited Lunch2.0 at Yahoo, which turned out to be a nice, low-key event with lots of interesting folks. Expect to hear more about all of this soon. I'll probably get back to my regular posting frequency by the end of the week.

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02/16 2007 | 11:43 AM
Posted by: Janko Roettgers
It’s been a year since the first official release of the Democracy1 player and podcast client, and the Democracy team is celebrating this birthday with the release of version 0.95. So what’s new, what’s coming up, and when will we see Democracy version 1.0? I checked in with Democracy co-creator Nicholas Reville to find out the scoop. Continue reading at Newteevee.com.

02/13 2007 | 08:03 PM
Posted by: Janko Roettgers
Philipp Lenssen mocked the idea of building a business on top of Yahoo Pipes today with a hypothetical business plan for a "web 3.0 website":

"After a year, from the resulting $40 in revenues, take a day off from the blogosphere, grab some food, walk up a lonely hill, and think about the world – hopefully you’ll come up with the idea for your web 3.0 site."

Via De:Bug blog, where the post resulted in a small discussion about the viability of mashup businesses in general in light of Pipes.

This is one aspect of Pipes that has been largely overlooked so far: The platform might just be a mashup killer in the sense that it shows people that there is no long term business model in building a website based on just a simple remix of tho other websites. After all, people can do that on their own now.

One example is a Pipe that I build in a few minutes this morning: Deli.co.comments makes use of Del.icio.us to track the comments you left on other weblogs. It's really not that fancy, and one could probably improve it a lot with some filters, more contextual information and maybe a possibility to add comment threads without RSS via Dapper or something like that.

Or one could use Cocomment.com, which is based on the same idea. Cocomment is developed by a Swiss startup which came up with a much more polished and user-friendly solution.

Of course it would be crazy to compare my quick hack to the Cocomment platform. But essentially Cocomment is just a mashup tool - and is that really worth 1.5 million dollars?

02/13 2007 | 01:01 PM
Posted by: Janko Roettgers
Google is getting some heat for their cooperation with P2P scammers, according to CNet News and the Wall Street Journal. The company is getting under pressure after the Journal mentioned their role in a lawsuit against two scammers that operated the sites EasyDownloadCenter.com and TheDownloadPlace.com.

Sites like these tend to promise free music and movie downloads for a subscription fee, but eventually only offer P2P software that otherwise would have been free. A lot of the documents in the lawsuit are sealed, but the Journal is reporting that Google made more than 800.000 dollars from Adsense ads for these two sites. Google allegedly suggested to use keywords like "pirated" and "download harry potter movie".

It's been common knowledge for a long time that Google & Co. are attracting a lot of scammers wit Adsense and similiar programs. Spyware expert Ben Edelman estimated last fall that Google & Yahoo are making two million dollars per year on fraudulent ads for screensavers alone.

Change may finally be coming to Adsense tho. From CNet News:

"Google said it would remove certain objectionable ads, create a list of approved advertisers, not sell keywords used by sites to advertise pirated content, introduce guidelines on monitoring keywords, and train its ad sales force to recognize and avoid selling such ads."

02/12 2007 | 12:01 AM
Posted by: Janko Roettgers
MP3Tunes.com will announce later today that they'll be giving away unlimited storage and bandwith as part of their free music locker offering. Previously the free music locker was limited to one gigabyte of storage or one thousand MP3s.

MP3Tunes users can stream their music from anywhere via a Flash-based web player. There are also plugins for iTunes and Winamp available for download, and MP3Tunes is integrated into the Songbird media player. Tivo users can also access their music locker through the networking services of their DVR. And finally, non-paying users can now make unlimited use of the MP3Tunes sync tool - a program that allows batch up- and downloading of selected folders or even your entire library.

mp3tunes

MP3Tunes was founded by MP3.com founder Michael Robertson, who initially launched the service as an MP3 download store based on the CD Baby catalogue. The music locker platform launched in late 2005. Back at that time free use was somewhat restricted, and the technology was a bit bumpy. The company has been taking steps towards a free model since last summer.

The free offering will be financed by text, audio and video advertising. I'm not sure how they want to do the audio and video integration, but we'll see. Ad-free accounts are 40 dollars per year.

MP3Tunes has been upgrading some of their previously registered users to the unlimited plan in recent weeks. New users might have to wait a little while until their locker becomes unlimited. From the website:

"Oboe Free Unlimited is currently available for a select number of new sign-ups each day. To be first in line for an upgrade, sign up now for Oboe Free and start syncing."



02/11 2007 | 07:58 PM
Posted by: Janko Roettgers
I must admit I'm semi-obsessed with Yahoo Pipes right now. Just in case you haven't heard of it already: Pipes is a new Yahoo platform that offers a slick GUI for the modular remixing of RSS feeds and other data sources. Think of it as a mashup creator for the rest of us.

pipes

One of the easiest ways to use it is to filter and combine RSS feeds. Want to read every new story about Bittorrent that is posted on Digg and Reddit? Just cofigure your own pipes filter, and you're ready to go.

Pipes also offers some other operators that can be combined to really complex mashups. I just saw that someone made a Pipe to search for people in your neighbourhood that share your musical taste. Great stuff.

There 's also a couple of P2P-related pipes, but so far most of them just offer multi-site torrent feeds. I'm sure there is a lot more stuff one can do with this.

I am actually playing with some Pipes projects myself right now, but the more complex suff is just that - really compicated, even with the nice GUI. So far I have only published a few simple demonstration Pipes, plus a somewhat useless Flickr and Plazes mashup.

And finally, Business Week had a really interesting article last week about the folks that gave us Pipes.

02/09 2007 | 03:00 PM
Posted by: Janko Roettgers
Techcrunch reported yesterday that the Arizona-based startup Mosoto.com is working on a P2P extension for Facebook.com. Mosoto is using the Facebook API to connect registered users with friends of various degrees as well as networks / groups.

Users can then chat with each other, stream music and share files through a Flash-based web application. The platform makes heavy use of Box.net for file sharing, which is why they don't really need a client based P2P component.

Right now Mosoto seems to be in closed alpha. It's kind of hard to tell because the website already offers you the option to log in, complete with accessing the Facebook API - but then nothing happens. Guess that might look different for registered alpha users.

Here's a couple of screenshots from the Mosoto Facebook group for a first preview:

mosoto 1

mosoto 2

mosoto 3

Mosoto apparently wants to stay clear of copyright conflicts by only allowing streaming access to music. From the Mosoto website:

"Filesharing has been about finding a file, downloading it, then installing an application to use it, but only on your computer. Mosoto is about immediate gratification. Double click your friends song from any computer and it starts playing then and there. If you like it, just drag it into a playlist to share with friends."


Of course, that strategy didn't seem to work that well for Grouper, so we'll have to see how it plays out in this case.

By the way: Mosoto isn't the first attempt to combine Facebook.com with file sharing. Early on the Facebook founders developed a social sharing application called Wirehog. The service went into limited beta in 2004, but disappeared a few months later.

02/08 2007 | 09:13 PM
Posted by: Janko Roettgers
Want to create your own talk show? How about receive localized supplements about what’s playing on your TiVo? These projects and more were demoed at the Digital Content Lab1 of the American Film Institute’s semi-annual production wrap event in Los Angeles yesterday, showcasing new experiments in digital media. Read the complete article at Newteevee.com.
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02/08 2007 | 07:30 PM
Posted by: Janko Roettgers
XTorrent, which has been getting rave reviews lately, is about to take another big step to become something like iTunes.app for Torrents.

XTorrent developer David Watanabe just published a screenshot on Flickr that shows the upcoming RSS support:

XTorrent RSS

From the Flickr photo decription:

"Basically it's just like the search interface with easy one-click downloading, except that the contents are updated automatically in the background (as you'd expect from an RSS feed)."

David told me that this feature will be available "very soon".

Update: The public beta featuring RSS support is now available for download.

02/06 2007 | 01:20 PM
Posted by: Janko Roettgers
Online video converter Heywatch.com has just added Bittorrent support to its platform, eanbling you to share online videos and home movie clips as Torrents with a few mouse clicks.

heywatch torrent

Heywatch is one of many online video conversion platforms that have popped up in recent weeks. It offers the capability to scrape online videos from platforms like Youtube or Revver and convert them into a multitute of formats.

Heywatch now also offers Torrent links for these videos in addition to direct downloads. From their blog:

"Wanna share your favorite videos with your family, friends, colleagues or anybody else? Do it right now with the new feat we’ve just added: you can now download your file in .torrent clicking the “T” icon under each encoded video."

The link to the Torrent is also emailed to you if you have email notifications for encoded videos enabled. Heywatch is hosting / superseeding the video for 12 hours. Users can continue to seed their own video afterwards. Heywatch is apparently using the Bittorrent.com tracker for this offering.

heywatch

I've tested Heywatch before and found it useful but almost too complicated. Videos are limited to ten minutes max. to prevent users from eating up too much processing time as well as converting all those 24 episodes they found online. Free accounts are also limited to 10 encoding sessions per month, with "pro" accounts costing five dollars per month.

I still can't imagine anybody would pay for this, and I'd think the increasing competition will eventually force Heywatch to switch to a free for all service with reasonable limitations. They can probably make more money licensing their technology to other platforms - and the Torrent hosting seems like a nice addition to their feature set.

02/05 2007 | 12:12 PM
Posted by: Janko Roettgers
Open source media player Songbird will be able to play DRM protected downloads from Apple's iTunes music store as well as from Yahoo Music Unlimited and similiar outlets using the Windows Media Playsforsure DRM - as long as you are using OS X or windows, that is.

Songbirdines

The Songbird team didn't feel like spending the rest of their life in court, which is why they didn't reverse engineer the copy protection of either format. Songbird is instead using the playback engines of Quicktime and Windows Media Player to play protected content - which is why Fairplay will only work on OS X and Windows and Playsforsure will be Windows exclusive. From the Songbird blog:

"We use VLC for playback of most file types, but now whenever you play a protected WMA or M4P file we swap in the Windows Media Player or QuickTime core. Sounds easy, right?"

Apparently it wasn't, and one of their developers shares some useful advice on how to deal with cryptic Quicktime error messages.

I interviewed Songbird founder Rob Lord earlier last year. Read the full interview here, or just get the new nightly which already features Fairplay and Playsforsure playback.


02/02 2007 | 12:58 PM
Posted by: Janko Roettgers
The De:Bug blog has a funny story today that shows how much police officers in Germany care about file sharing. Not much at all, apparently.

German internet users have been tormented by a new wave of trojan horse E-Mail spam lately. The messages pretend to come from the German federal police, which is known as the BKA, and warn their recipients that they have been caught using P2P networks to download movies, music or software. The message goes on stating that the recipient's ISP is informed and he or she will face persecution and possibly jailtime of up to five years.

One German Bittorrent user apparently got this message when he came home from a party slightly intoxicated. He panicked and decided to call up the number that was mentioned in the spam mail right away - even tho it was already 11pm.

Turns out, the number was real, and the BKA is having some nice folks doing their night shifts. The officer who picked up the phone explained that the e-mail was bogus and that there wasn't any case, which is why he gave the caller some friendly advice: "Just keep downloading music!"

02/01 2007 | 01:23 PM
Posted by: Janko Roettgers
YouTube executives told the Wall Street Journal a few months ago that they find clearing rights for U.S. music videos complex and frustrating. This year they might wake up to realize their biggest nightmare might just be the European market. Read the whole story at Newteevee.com.