The founders of Skype, Janus Friis and Niklas Zennstrom, have already pretty successfully shaken up the telephony marketplace, and their next target could be YouTube. According to their posting the duo are “working on a project that combines the best things about television with the social power of the internet - a project that gives viewers, advertisers and content owners more choice, control and creativity than ever before.”
The Venice Project is still pretty much under wraps right now, with a very limited Beta test underway but one which is set to expand dramatically next month. If you want to participate then you can register your interest on-site and keep your fingers crossed. Although I understand you will not have long to wait even if you do not make the first cut, as the Beta is likely to be open to all comers by the end of the year, start of 2007 anyway. One thing that is for sure, is that it will not be called the Venice Project when it does go live, and I do not intend to guess as to what branding it will carry (although feel free to post your guesses here in comment form.)
Of course, the idea of an interactive medium for the posting video content on the web is hardly new, but the success of YouTube has created a market where there is plenty of gravy for smaller operators to join in and mop up enough to get by. Not that you can accuse Friis and Zennstrom of lacking in ambition, and I do not expect them to be happy with running behind YouTube at the end of the day. Which is why they are attacking the market from something of a different angle, that of full-length, professionally produced video content from providers big and small, independents and TV companies alike.
Oh, and you and me as well, these guys are not stupid enough to think that such a system could possibly succeed without the viral marketing that only us common folk can provide through active use.
BusinessWeek have recently reported that they have been given an exclusive first look at the system which will require some downloaded software to be installed on your PC in order to access the full screen ‘near high-definition’ quality video. For all intents and purposes, this will be Skype TV with the ability to share playlists. And if anyone can pull the sharing thing off then you might imagine Friis and Zennstrom to be your men, after all before Skype they developed the now infamous Kazaa P2P system. Of course, they are serious businessmen these days, following the $2.6 billion acquisition of Skype by eBay, and so don’t expect to see Kazaa-alike sharing within the Venice Project. Yes, it will be based upon peer-to-peer principles, as is Skype, but rather than file sharing this will be very much a streaming exercise. This, it is hoped, will prevent or at least hamper those looking to distribute or sell copyright infringing content. Personally,
I don’t see how as YouTube is already awash with such content and if end users can participate and publish then there is always going to be such content floating about.
I also remain to be convinced that the Skype boys can make a truly worthwhile impact in this market at this time, just when competition from the likes of News Corp who will broadcast TV programs via MySpace soon, and the obvious YouTube with that all important financial and marketplace clout that the Google acquisition brings.
And that is without even considering the fact that many of the media giants are likely to want to take their content directly to the public rather than use a third party service.