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Azureus beat Bram Cohenís 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.

01/16 2007 | 03:51 PM
Posted by: Janko Roettgers
Azureus just announced a deal with Bennet Media Woldwide that will allow them to distribute HD shows via their Zudeo.com P2P download platform. From their news release:

"Among the Bennett Media original productions to be featured in HD on Zudeo include Bikini Destinations, The Wild Side, The Extremists, Xotic Xtreme and Snowology. Bennett Media content will be available on Azureus later this year."

No word yet on the costs of the content. The shows are pretty much the same ones that were licensed to Guba.com for distribution "on a pay-per-view, download-to-own and ad-supported basis" late last year, so that might be an indicator for what Azureus could do with them.

Obviously paying for a show like Bikini Destinations might not be that compelling to the average Azureus user. After all, there is lots of this stuff available for free on your average porn tracker sites like Mariposahd.tv.

What makes this interesting is that Mark Cuban used to show Bikini Destinations at industry conventions back in the days when he wanted to persuade the audience of the power of HD but didn't have Dan Rather yet. In fact, Cuban's network HDNet still lists Bikini Destinations as "original programming".

Now this type of original programming will be available via P2P. Maybe this would be a good time to rethink that whole "HDTV is the Internet video killer" claim?

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

01/01 2007 | 08:20 PM
Posted by: Janko Roettgers
Is it too late of yet another look back at 2006? Not according to VH1, those folks are still busy reviewing the 80ies. Anyway, here's a quick list of the most popular stories of 2006:

1. Allofmp3 is giving away entire catalogue

2. 60 percent of P2P video downloads are porn

3. Allofmp3 vows to continue despite tougher copyright laws

4. Azureus 3.0 and Zudeo: Some first impressions

5. Germany: P2P lawsuits cost taxpayers millions

6. Allpeers review

7. Rob Lord: Songbird will be more disruptive than Firefox

8. TIOTI: The next step for Bittorrent TV downloading

9. Online Music Recorder: A free replacement for Allofmp3.com?

10. Snocap starts selling MP3s through web widgets

P2P Blog started in early summer 2006, and the first few months were admittedly a little slow, so this list might not be the best indicator for what was really important in the P2P space in 2006. But it's still always nice to take a look back.

Oh, and while we're at it ... here's the list of most requested search engine key phrases that led folks to P2P Blog:

1. relakks
2. allpeers review
3. azureus 3.0
4. redswoosh p2p
5. doubletwist ventures
6. zudeo
7. p2p blog
8. p2p
9. relakks review
10. music for masses

Okay, enough lists and charts. 2006 was an exciting year to start P2P Blog, and I think 2007 will have a lot to offer as well. So stay tuned, and happy new year!

12/20 2006 | 12:57 PM
Posted by: Janko Roettgers
Yesterday Azureus announced that they will distribute a number of TV shows for the BBC via their Zudeo.com Bittorrent platform starting early next year. The announcement was a little thin on the details of the deal. For example it's not clear yet whether the shows will be for sale or advertising-supported.

One thing is certain tho from what I've been hearing about the deal: The BBC content will be copy protected with a DRM wrapper. No word on the type of DRM yet, but it is supposedly playable on most major platforms - which narrows the field quite a bit.

The BBC previously experimented with both Windows Media DRM as well as Realnetworks DRM. The broadcaster most recently used Windows Media for a field test of their iMP media player. iMP allowed a limited number of users to download and watch archived BBC content for free. The content expired seven days after it was downloaded, which got some mixed reactions from beta testers.

A less restrictive approach has been in use for the BBC Creative Archive - a content repository that makes original BBC productions and news content available under terms similiar to those of a Creative Commons license. From the Creative Archive FAQ:

"During our pilot we will be trialling a patented Video Watermarking technology where a virtual barcode will be embedded into the video clips. This invisible stamp can be read through video editing and format changes so that any video sequence can be traced back to its source. This will not interfere with legitimate users, but it will assist the BBC in the event that any use is made of the material in breach of the licence terms."

I would guess that the DRM solution for distributiong shows via Zudeo.com will be more restrictive, simply because the copyright issues of entertainment productions are usually far more complex that those of news content. They'll probably use something like Helix from Realnetworks - unless the BCC has worked out something on their own, which is entirely possible.

Either way, they should probably read up on what their own BBC World Service commentator Bill Thompson has to say about DRM:

"The content industries have a choice. They can suffer a painful restructuring as the full force of the move to digital unmakes all their plans and invalidates their business models; or they can suffer the same painful restructuring with a far smaller chance of success by alienating their one-time customers as they try to shore up their position with restrictive rights management."