Numerous websites have reported about the launch of Zudeo.com today. The site is basically the new face of Azureus, a popular multi-platform Bittorrent client. The regular Azureus website forwards to Zudeo.com now, and the new site has been completely integrated into the new version of the Azureus client software.

The strategy behind this is to take Bittorrent more mainstream by offering people an alternative to Youtube.com that is capable of distributing longer videos at higher resolutions. I've been testing the platform and the application for the last few hours under both OS X and Windows XP. Here are some of my first impressions:

Zudeo.com - stylish, but not too intuitive


zudeo.com

Zudeo.com very much has a media player kind of feel to it. It's the type of interface that you would expect within the content section of Microsoft's Windows Media Player, or maybe as part of the Rhapsody subscription service. It definitely looks good. Not as busy as most of the traditional Bittorrent websites, and not as cluttered as Youtube. The big preview pictures leave no doubt that the video quality will be better than on Flash-based sites as well.

Finding stuff on Zudeo.com isn't too easy tho. There are a few themed channels, but there is no clear system to them: One features a certain video resolution, another one a genre while a third one seems to be related to a content / advertising partnership. Zudeo features tags and basic search, but it would be good if there was a possibility to just search for tags, authors or publishers.

Violating Creative Commons licenses?

The preview pages for the individual downloads also seem somehow empty and unfinished. One would expect at least a few preview frames for downloads that can be as big as 1.3 Gigabytes - but so far users only get a short description posted by the original publisher.

Also missing is a standard field that would tell users about the rights and restrictions they face when downloading the content. Some uploaders mention that content is released under "a Creative Commons license", while others don't seem to bother clarifying such things at all.

Original rights holders might be bothered by this - especially in light of the fact that Zudeo.com doesn't have any back links to the copyright owners' web sites. Both mentioning the license and properly attributing the rights holder is a standard requirement of most Creative Commons licenses. It seems a lot of the content on Zudeo.com is currently in violation of these licensing terms.

Of course Azureus could always blame the uploaders for this and just point to the DMCA safe harbor provisions. But it seems like incorporating back-links and Creative Commons licenses into the uploading process would be a much better solution for both the site owners and rights holders.

Making it easy ain't easy

Azures tries to make Bittorrent easier for the masses by incorporating a Java applet ino the download process. The applet will detect if you have installed Azureus on your system, download and install the application in case you haven't and finally start the download of your desired video.

azureus 3.0 installation

Sounds good - but there are still a lot of technical speed bumps that might scare away average users without a lot technical experience. You might not be able to avoid this if you want to install an application on ther end user's machine - but you should at least explain it during the installation process.

Another thing that is really missing from Zudeo right now is RSS. Maybe the developers thougth it would have complicated things in their quest for new users. Maybe they wanted to get their page views up by having people come back to the platform. I really think it's a big mistake. Azureus was one of the first Bittorrent clients with RSS support, and subscribing to a show would have made perfect sense to the millions of DVR users out there.

Azureus 3.0: My mom could use it

azureus 3.0

Azureus 3.0 on the other hand is a pleasant surprise. The application features the Zudeo web interface and offers easy access to your current and past downloads - all without the typical P2P application feel. It's something even my Mom could use without a lot of explanation. Power users on the other hand can just swith to the regular Azureus interface and happily tweak their expert settings.

Big changes, big studio content


Azureus is definitely going through some big changes right now, and there is likely a lot more to come. Private sharing is supposed to be integrated into version 3.1, and some content deals seem to be on the horizon. One is already mentioned in the FAQ, even tho the show isn't up yet:

"What about that episode of Weeds on your site? Isnít that copyright material?

Yes, however we have obtained a license from the content provider (in this case Showtime) to legally distribute the content."


Nice. I can see this work for studios who want to advertise their new shows. We'll see what else is coming to Zudeo, or Azureus for that matter.

By the way: I wouldn't be the least surprised if they dropped the Azureus name completely soon. The new Azureus startup logo definitely makes it look like the frog is on the way out.

azureus 3.0 logo

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