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09 June 2007

IP-TV: Joost and Babelgum

If you're not that much into networking and TCP/IP stuff, please skip this paragraph. A long while ago a friend at work - he now works in Cisco Systems - was preparing for an IP TV and VoD (Video on Demand) demo for one of our customers. We then had a debate about Multicast. In fact I was never able to like nor understand such technology. In web content, you request a page from the server and it gives it to you, then another user requests the same page, and so on. But when it come to a continuous stream of data like TV broadcast, it is hard for a server to serve that huge number of subscribers continuously at the same time. So my friend's point was that in order to stream the content from one point to a huge number of subscribers, the streamer has to send one stream to a multicast address and this stream shall then be copied/splitted by the routers in the path in order to deliver it to the appropriate subscribers. I was then obsessed by the P2P (Peer to Peer) technology, so I told him why don't we make some kind of Media Player that can take a stream and distribute it to other neighbor nodes in order to reduce the load on the main streamer. And guess what, it seems that my idea then wasn't really bad.

Joost and Babelgum are two new softwares which are trying to create a new way of watching TV online. Believe me, after a short while everything will be online. They have signed contracts with TV channels and content producers in order to broadcast their content to the users. According to their model, users will not pay any fees, but they will make money by having Ad banners in their softwares. They both depend on a Torrent-like P2P technology where the content is broadcasted from a certain location, and each client (node) acts as a small streamer. So beside watching the content you are also copying it and passing it to your neighbors. Today I wanted to try one of them, but you know the creators of Joost are those who created Kazaa a while ago, so I was afraid to install it and find my PC filled with Spywares and Adwares later on, so I preferred to try Babelgum instead. The content there is not that rich, but may be it is because they are still in a beta-trial phase.

The problem with those softwares that the content there will always be tailored for their main users in Europe and USA. And that's why I think people here shall start creating our own version of IPTV softwares and sign with the local content producers such as ART, Show Time, etc. Egyptian Radio and TV Union can also provide them with Arabic movies, series and documentaries. Such project can be sponsored by local ISP's. By the way the (co-)founder of Babelgum Silvio Scaglia, is also the chairman of one of the Italian ISP's.

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