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09/30 2007 | 12:26 AM
Posted by: Janko Roettgers
I've been rambling a lot lately about ultimate online TV guides and how they could safe companies like Tivo. Now it looks like that others are starting to fill the gap. Web 2.0 TV guides like Sidereel are popping up all over the place. The next one up is Locate TV, a site that is officially starting its open beta test on Monday.

Locate TV is a little bit like the Google version of the TV guide world, featuring a clean look that centers around a search interface. The site lets you search for TV shows, movies or actors and explore each more in depth on detail pages. Each detail page gives you the next on air dates of the show, episode or movie in question based on your account localization info.

Locate TV also has some links to DVD shops and download pages, but unfortunately no streaming locations at all - something that makes it look a little old fashioned in the age of Joost and the free streams almost every network offer on the web these days. There are also no links at all to P2P ressources, and the Locate TV folks make it quite clear that they won't be linking to "illegal content".

Click to see LocateTV results for Heroes. Always up to date, always relevant to you.

What I do like about Locate TV are these widgets / badges. I'd love to see something like this for Torrent sites as well.

09/26 2007 | 06:01 PM
Posted by: Janko Roettgers
The New York-based startup Wixi Inc. launched the private beta test of their Wixi media sharing desktop last week with a presentation at Techcrunch40. Wixi offers web-based private file sharing through an Ajax desktop, complete with a Flash player. Techcrunch sums it up this way:

"Looks like a Web OS, smells like a Web OSÖbut itís a 'media sharing platform'".


wixi

I got my invitation to Wixi today and played with the service a little bit. So far I'm a little underwhelmed. Wixi clearly was inspired by the idea of a Web OS, but instead used to metaphor to allow desktop sharing. You can browse other users' dektops and flip through their files and folders.

Users can upload files and elect to share them with their friends or everyone on Wixi, or simply keep them private. Your personal desktop can also be beautified with a background picture of your choice and the ability to make new folders.

wixi

There is a lot of, well, let's say, professional content on Wixi, with some users naming themselves after popular TV shows and offering every single episode for streaming. The two "Tom" users that are automatically assigned to you as your default friends also have their fair share of Hollywood content on their virtual desktop.

Shared videos and MP3s can't be downloaded - at least not with a free account. Pay three bucks per month, and you'll get unlimited download access to all the media you want.

Well, almost all the media. Despite its name sounding like the German word for jerking off, Wixi seems to try to keep adult content out. The terms of use don't allow the upload of "nudity or pornography", and there seem to be filters in place to enforce these rules. Of course, filters are never perfect, so you'll find the odd porn clip on Wixi if you really look for it.

Wixi does have its innovative features. I like the video player that makes it possible to create playlists on the fly and get recommendations for similar items, even though the recommendation engine isn't always too accurate. Videos can also be embedded into third party websites. See below for a French introduction of Wixi.



The main issue I have with the service is that the desktop metaphor doesn't seem to make too much sense if you just want to share some files. You basically have to go from desktop to desktop to find new stuff or interesting new people - and oftentimes you'd wish for a simple profile page with a list of files instead of another slow-loading sunset desktop background to find out more about that person whose files you are looking at.

Wixi does call users' dektops "rooms", so they might eventually add chat and other interactive elements. Still, I'm not convinced I really need another desktop to share files and interact with friends. I already have a hard time keeping all my computers' desktops clear from all that digital clutter.

09/24 2007 | 11:07 PM
Posted by: Janko Roettgers
Ever wanted try programming your own Bittorrent client, but felt overwhelmed by Libtorrent?

torrantula

Ben Gower might have an answer for you
: Gower recently wrote a Bittorrent client in Realbasic to have somehting to tinker with while studying how Bittorrent works. In his own words:

"I wanted a client that I could play with: one that I could easily change and use to experiment with different piece selection algorithms and endgame modes, etc..."


The result of his curiosity is called Torrantula - and it works both under Windows and OS X, even though it has a few shortcomings. No DHT support for example, and no NAT traversal either. Gower doesn't recommend using Torrantula as your everday Bittorrent client, but he does think it's a good piece of software to tinker with. Says Gower:

"I wrote this to learn about BitTorrent, and I think it could be a great resource for anyone looking to do the same. If you're interested in writing a BitTorrent app in REALBasic, or perhaps building BitTorrent capability into a game, etc..., this will take care of almost all the dirty work."


09/23 2007 | 10:34 AM
Posted by: Janko Roettgers
CBS blew us away with a groundbreaking new idea for TV syndication on the net this week. The network will make its entire 60 Minutes show available as a free podcast. As an audio podcast, to be precise.

Now some of you might ask: Why on earth would anyone want to listen to that? And isnít the fact that a TV show works just as well as an audio-only version proof that it shouldnít be on TV, but rather on the radio in the first place? Thatís true, and something every video podcaster should meditate on before producing the next Rocketboom.

Come to think of it, maybe the other networks should follow suit and release audio-only podcasts of their programming as well. Sure, they can still roll out their fancy Windows Media DRM-protected video-on-demand services. Just give us the audio podcast too. You know, for those days when you really canít stand the idea of seeing Bill OíReillyís face. Continue reading at Newteevee.com.

09/20 2007 | 12:41 AM
Posted by: Janko Roettgers
The German Chaos Computer Cub (CCC) has been on the forefront of the fight against copyright industry monopolies for years. They called for a boycott of the music industry when labels started suing file sharers. They've been hosting events with folks like Rasmus Fleischer from Piratbyran.

They are actively involved in the discussion about content flatrates and alternative compensation models. So why are the folks from Peerguardian Bluetack (please see comments for a clarification about the relationship between Peerguardian and Bluetack) convinced that the CCC is doing "anti-P2P work" and that some of its members are "a threat to file sharers?"

ccc
A web banner of the CCC.

It turns out that one member of the CCC used to run a open Torrent tracker from the organization's network. Mediadefender found that open tracker and used it to distribute fake files.

Peerguardian in turn decided to block ranges of IP addresses belonging to the CCC - a debatable decision. But the whole story gets even murkier: The tracker in question has long moved to a different network, but Peerguardian keeps blocking the club's network. Peerguardian forum moderator monk justified this decision this way:

"We are primarily concerned with P2P protection here, but we do block other things that are a threat to people, such as malware, viruses and hackers. The CCC certainly qualifies as the latter. I'm sure the majority of the CCC members are good, decent people, like anyone else you would meet, but I am certain that there are people who are involved with this organization which are a threat to filesharers."

Unfortunately, the proof monk quotes for for these accusations raises only more questions. Want an example? Well, how about this: One of the CCC members links to the MPAA from his website as part of a joke. Monk thinks this proves he works for the content industry. To which the CCC member in question responds:

"Is this your so called "expert knowledge" in judging which IP-Addr. belong to the anti-p2p people? Are you kidding?"

CCC member Andreas Bogk doesn't think it's funny either. He's concerned that folks at events like the yearly Chaos Communication Congress won't be able to use their P2P software anymore. Says Bogk:

"You're effectively crippling p2p service for literally thousands of users, namely our members and the guests at our events. They can't unblock themselves in other people's software."

(via gulli)

09/19 2007 | 10:50 AM
Posted by: Janko Roettgers
The German IFPI recently succeeded in shutting down six local eDonkey servers. The industry association got several injunctions against the owner of the servers from courts in Hamburg, Cologne, Dusseldorf, Leipzig and Frankfurt.

The affected servers were know in the eDonkey network as "Donkey Server No. 1" to "Donkey Server No. 1 No. 6". Including these six, IFPI Germany forced a total of 16 eDonkey servers to shut down this year. Further injunctions are expected for the near future.

There is some controversy surrounding the methods used by the music industry in these cases though. The owner of the six eDonkey servers in question told the German IT news site heise.de that he installed filters to stop the trading of unauthorized songs immediately after being contacted by IFPI's lawyers, but the association went ahead and got injunctions against him anyway.

09/18 2007 | 09:37 PM
Posted by: Janko Roettgers
The folks from G4 TV did a segment about the porn industry's fight against P2P piracy after reading my article about the subject the other day. At least that's what I'd like to think. Hey, they did link to it after all.

Anyway, the video features a double interview with Wanted List co-founder Anh Tran and Pirate Party spokesperson Andrew Norton. You be the judge on who comes across as more sympathetic.



G4 of course couldn't pass on the chance to show plenty of porn stars during the segment. Kind of makes it look as if the porn industry wanted to fight those evil pirates with lots and lots of big boobs. Now if someone only made a movie about that ...

09/18 2007 | 05:00 PM
Posted by: Janko Roettgers
Remember the days when TV networks were afraid of P2P? Before Joost and Babelgum, when BitTorrent was considered evil and P2P streaming was only being done by piraters out of China?

A lot has changed since then. Joost has become the hip kid on the block and in turn, made P2P sexy again. Traditional content delivery networks like Akamai (AKAM) are starting to embrace P2P. Traditional broadcasters like the BBC are launching P2P-powered media players to deliver their content (and save some dough in the process). And file-sharing companies like BitTorrent and Azureus have begun to sell TV shows through their platforms.

Does that mean that the TV world is wholeheartedly embracing P2P? Not so fast. The reality is that most networks are still somewhat wary of distributed content delivery. Take the fall TV season that is starting this week: Heroes, Desperate Housewives and Greyís Anatomy wonít be available on any legal P2P platform, despite all the hype around Joost and its competitors. Continue reading at Newteevee.com.

09/17 2007 | 11:56 PM
Posted by: Janko Roettgers
Eliot Van Buskirk wrote a somewhat surprising and positive commentary today over at Wired.com. The subject of his affection: Spiralfrog, the ad-based music download platform that officially launched today. Van Buskirk thinks that Spiralfrog is offering the fairest DRM solution yet:

"SpiralFrog does in fact make sense because digital rights management is so restrictive that any music it "protects" should be free to download."


That's a cute argument, but I tested Spiralfrog a week weeks back as well, and I'd have to disagree. Spiralfrog is fundamentally flawed because it's build on the assumption that you have to trick its customers. The site tries to get you to look at as many ads as possible while you download their tracks. It's called stickiness - and advertisers love it. Keep your readers or users as long as possible on your site, and there is a higher likelihood that they pay attention to ads, or so the logic goes.

Of course it also matters how you get your site sticky, and Spiralfrog resorts to cheap tricks. Users have to answer a captcha before they can download a track, an they can only download one track at a time. Download are pretty slow, causing you to spend a good 20 minutes before you get your whole album.

Finding music is also a nightmare. You actually have to browse through a long alphabetical list to find music videos you like. Browsing genres isn't possible at all. There is no social interaction - it's just stalling. It's a UI nightmare, and using it feels more like Rapidshare than iTunes.

09/14 2007 | 12:49 PM
Posted by: Janko Roettgers
So you got yourself a nice connected home theater setup. A fat media server with up to a Terabyte of hard disk space. A media receiver that streams HD data to your living room. And of course a nice, big flat panel TV. So where do you get the media to enjoy with this setup? Well, of course Torrentspy and Minnova. At least that's what the media center maker Helios Labs is suggesting.

helios labs
Helios Labs has recently been running ads through Google Adwords, some of which appeared on this site, that read:

"BitTorrent to your TV. Download. Connect. Watch on the big screen."

The ad also shows the logos of Torrentspy, Isohunt and Mininova, as well as a TV screen with images from the popular TV shows House and Heroes. The Helios labs website isn't that blunt and merely suggests their products are good for people who have "hundreds of gigs of downloaded media: including videos, music, and images".

Of course this isn't the first time device makers have been courting downloaders. In fact, many electronics makers have been running ads on Torrent websites for years. They tend to blame ad agencies for these campaigns, but of course it's only logical that they would go where their customers are. You just usually don't expect them to be as honest about it as Helios Labs.

09/13 2007 | 01:08 PM
Posted by: Janko Roettgers
And I got one of them: A new study of the Computer and Communications Industry Association (CCIA) tries to estimate the value fair use exemptions bring to the US economy. The numbers are quite impressive: The annual revenue of the fair use industries amounts to more than 4.5 trillion dollars, according to CCIA.

fair use report

Information Week, who reported about the study first, put these numbers in perspective:

"Recent studies indicate that the value added to the U.S. economy by copyright industries amounts to $1.3 trillion, said Black. The value added to the U.S. economy by the fair use amounts to $2.2 trillion."

There are also some interesting numbers about employment caused by fair use in the report:

"Employment in industries benefiting from fair use increased from 10.5 million in 2002 to 10.8 million in 2006. Thus, about one out of every eight workers in the United States is employed in an industry that benefits from the protection afforded by fair use."


Now who are all those folks that depend on fair use to keep their job? You and me, for a start. CCIA included online publishers and broadcasters, ISPs and search engines, libraries and archives, web hosters, computer and software makers, manufacturers of consumer electronics, your grouchy video clerk, your grouchy Amazon employee, everyone working for Ebay, AT&T, Comedy Central, Comcast, Lexmark, Canon, Borders and all of their lawyers. Just to give you a few examples.

Honestly, after browsing through the list I was surprised that there are people left who aren't depending on Fair Use in their job. And I guess it can only be a question of days until the copyright industry retaliates, showing that every McDonald's employee depends on copyright. After all, you gotta protect those clowns, or our whole economy is gonna go downhill.

09/13 2007 | 11:12 AM
Posted by: Janko Roettgers
Watermarking is supposed to be the silver bullet for DRM-free online music distribution. Universal is using watermarking for the MP3s they started to sell through Walmart, Real Rhapsody and other online retailers. Other labels are considering similar approaches. The idea is to keep track of the files without locking them down, and scre your customers off of using P2P systems while you're at it.

Sounds convincing, if it wasn't for the fact that labels rarely tell you what they will do once watermarked files get leaked. Sue the original owner? Cut him off and stop selling music to him? Or just end the whole experiment altogether?

Music journalist Erik Davis recently learned that the answer probably will be "lose your mind and go berserk". Davis experienced first hand that watermarking oftentimes leads to everything but clear cases when he got mixed up in an online leak of a yet to be published album. From his personal website:

"Publicly admitting one's file sharing habits is kinda like talking about porn, and Iím as shy as the next guy, but one thing's for sure: I would never upload an advance. But Ben Goldberg didn't know this. (...)"

The article is an entertaining read - and something every label owner should think about before spending money on a technology with a whole bunch of unintended consequences.

(via Pho)
09/12 2007 | 03:16 PM
Posted by: Janko Roettgers
My article about ways for Tivo to get back on track started quite a discussion over at Newteevee this weekend. Apparently people still really care about this big, ugly box in their living room. Even the Motely Fool jumped in, with Fool contributor Rick Munarriz examining each of my ideas. Munarriz especially seemed to like the idea of giving the Tivo universe a Web 2.0 makeover, complete with widgets and social features.

Over at Newteevee, many people demanded that Tivo should finally give them access to all the media that's stored on their home PC - and not just the photos or MP3s. My suggestion to Tivo was to go one step further and even open up their online programming guide to other media offerings. Munarriz thought that was a little too daring:

"Beyond TV programming and video podcasts, he'd love to see TiVo also stream shows like those appearing on Joost, or on the websites of NBC or ABC. He then argues that TiVo should save those Web streams onto your TiVo, without the inserted commercials.

I can't see that ever happening. Network websites would block TiVo access, and the programmer-friendly TiVo would become the enemy. Sure, there are ways for TiVo to transform its units into home theater cornerstones, but let's hope it does it in a way that is a little more "white hat" than that."


That wasn't actually quite what I had in mind. My vision for Tivo is to get two legs - a great box that records and manages your media, and an online programming guide that offers you access to all the scheduled video content that's out there, may it be podcasts, TV shows or Joost streams.

Now obviously my Tivo box won't be able to give me access to Joost any time soon, and I wouldn't suggest to record web streams with the box either. The quality just isn't that great. Instead, the Tivo online programming guide should point to those resources, even if they are not available on Tivo right now.

Hopefully, most of the commercial content will be available via Unbox soon, so the guide would give you the choice to watch the latest Heroes episode as an ad-suported, more or less low-res web stream on your computer screen via the network's web site - or just pay 1.99 to watch it in DVD quality on your Tivo. I'd bet more and more people would go for the Tivo option.

Tivo could even make some money via ads or affiliate links off of people who don't use their system, but want to browse their programming guide anyway. And eventually folks might think about actually buying a Tivo because they just got used to the system. Kind of the same way Apple makes you want to buy a Mac after you played with iTunes for a while. No black hat trickery involved. Just clever marketing. I bet it would work better than those antenna ears commercials.

09/11 2007 | 12:36 AM
Posted by: Janko Roettgers
Earthlink has been in the news for job cuts and giving up on Wifi in San Francisco lately. Customers of the internet provider will be happy to know that there are some good news too: Earthlink just started outsourcing their Usenet service to Supernews. They recently announced the changes on the company weblog:

"Earthlink has offered this service to our users since the beginning. However, weíll be the first to recognize that our Usenet service has beenÖ letís just say, not up to par for the last few years."

You must leave it to Earthlink that they are kinda cute in their dorkiness. Earthlink's Usenet service has been kinda spotty for years and went downhill when the company launched their Weblife platform last year that turned out to be powered by what used to be one of their Usenet server farms. The service has been pretty much unusable ever since.

Until now, that is. Completion finally seems to be fine again, and Earthlink promises a "way longer" retention rate - which will probably be the 40 days for multi-part binaries Supernews offers private customers. Earthlink also used to cap bandwidth after you downloaded five gigabytes. Now there is no download cap or limit whatsoever. Just as a frame of reference: Comcast offers its customers Giganews access, but caps it after just two gigabytes.

So why is this interesting when it comes to P2P and file sharing? For one thing, it does show that ISPs and their customers still consider Usenet access an essential part of their service - which in turn means that it will continue to play an important role in online media distribution.

09/10 2007 | 11:15 AM
Posted by: Janko Roettgers
That's the message of a new anti-piracy PSA that's been circulating on Youtube. Luckily it's not from the MPAA, but the British sitcom The IT Crowd.



(via Eselkult)

09/08 2007 | 04:47 PM
Posted by: Janko Roettgers
Things have not been going well for TiVo (TIVO) lately. The company released its latest quarterly results at the end of August, and guess what: People just donít want to pay up to $17 a month for a box that records TV if their cable company offers them the same thing for a third of the price. TiVo only gained 41,000 subscribers last quarter, compared to 74,000 in the same quarter last year. They also lost another 350,000 DirecTV (DTV) subscribers because the satellite provider doesnít carry TiVo anymore. And an unexpected inventory write-down charge saw the companyís second-quarter net loss more than double.

It really seems like there are only two options left for TiVo: Either become an IP shell company that lives off of the patent licensing fees other DVR distributors will likely have to pay to TiVo soon and let your own subscriber base slowly bleed to death, or finally become innovative again, and change the rules that define our collective TV experience one more time. Continue reading at Newteevee.com.

09/07 2007 | 04:19 PM
Posted by: Janko Roettgers
It's been a well-know fact that a lot of the content swapped on P2P networks is porn. Even so, adult entertainment companies have been on the sideline of the fight against P2P piracy, leaving the mass lawsuit campaigns to their colleagues from the music industry and relying on mainstream Hollywood for anti-piracy lobbying.

porn industry against torrent sites

It looks like this might change soon though. AVN is reporting that 65 porn industry representatives met in Los Angeles Wednesday to discuss their options in the fight against piracy. From the article:

"Several figures estimating the extent of piracy of adult material were mentioned at the meeting, and the consensus seemed to be that piracy accounted for about a $2 billion loss from the estimated $50 billion gross income from adult material worldwide."

Some of the producers at the meeting thought that the situation was even more serious. AVN quotes Megan Stokes from Shane's World saying:

"As the younger people who know exactly how to do this [download content] keep coming further and further into our bracket, I would suspect that within the next five years, there's not going to be anybody that we're trying to sell product to that doesn't know how to download it for free."

Some of the companies present apparently expressed reservation against a too aggressive legal strategy, arguing that instead the porn industry needs something like iTunes to make it easier for people to buy single scenes. There were also mixed feelings about DRM.

Five companies nevertheless decided to go forward and form a lose alliance with the goal of eventually establishing an industry association to initiate anti-piracy lawsuits. Part of that would be actions against commercial infringers that sell bootleg DVDs.

A web forum started by the companies in question makes it clear that they definitely want to go after P2P piracy as well. The forum alfready lists various Torrent sites, and members are encouraged to "take screenshots of the suspected infringements".

09/07 2007 | 01:34 PM
Posted by: Janko Roettgers
Told you so. Here is what I wrote back in November about Netscape.com:

"You can't force people to be part of a community. Sites like Digg or Reddit have been building their community organically. They started small and reacted to the wishes of their users. Netscape on the other hand tried to convert millions of existing users to a new, unproven model while at the same time trying to attract new and technical more savvy users from other social bookmarking platforms. As a result they have been both too radical and too tame at the same time - and eventually poised for failure.

Could Netscape have succeeded with a different game plan? There were obviously some other options. Starting an AOL-owned collaborative filtering platform with a new name was one of them. Carefully introducing bookmarking and filtering options into the existing Netscape.com framework might have been another. But with Netscape set up like it is now and Calacanis leaving AOL we'll probably never know."

By the way, sorry for the long silence on the blog here - the recent LA heat wave knocked out the power in our neighborhood for three days straight ...

09/01 2007 | 12:53 AM
Posted by: Janko Roettgers
Except after patch Tuesday, that is. German network analysis company Ipoque just published a little preview to their next P2P survey that will be unvealed at the MIT Emerging Technologies Conference in September. One of the more surprising tidbits is that Skype apparently has a bigger network data footprint than many would have thought. After all, it's only VOIP, right? From Ipoque the press release:

"As P2P continues to dominate, other applications have risen in popularity. While Joost does not yet cause the traffic volume many Internet providers fear, Skype, although being a low-bandwidth application, generates up to 2% of the overall traffic in certain networks."


Granted, certain networks isn't really too specific. We'll just have to wait a few weeks to find out if it's about the UK's broadband network or Ipoque's LAN. The company's other findings are similiarly unspecific and yet somewhat intruiging:

"BitTorrent has become the globally dominating P2P protocol with a share of 50-75% of all P2P traffic. eDonkey exhibits a regionally varying popularity with shares between 5-50% of all P2P. In certain regions, other protocols have gained a significant importance. In the Baltic States, for instance, DirectConnect has a proportion of about 30% of P2P."