So I've finally managed to get my sweaty little paws on a Joost beta test account (rare as gold dust), and have started playing around with it.
For those who don't know what Joost is, everyone will by the end of the year. It's online TV, bought to you by the guys who bought you Kazaa and Skype. These guys know how to optimise the use of bandwidth - and they're doing it well with Joost. They're using the same principles as BitTorrent to distribute content (footage which is downloaded is also uploaded back to the swarm, sharing the load). This method improves the quality of the footage. At the risk of cutting to the chase, it's like a high-picture-quality-YouTube.
And it's that high-quality picture aspect that is making a lot of waves. YouTube is fine for short entertainment clips, but most people wouldn't want to watch a full length TV show or film on a small segment of a small screen at such poor resolution.
So, how does Joost look? Background: I have a 2 meg connection (yeah, I know, I should upgrade) and was watching it on a Dell Latitude X1 (specs here). The content loaded quickly (about 5 seconds), and then was pretty decent quality. Without running strictly scientific tests, I'd say the quality was about half way between YouTube quality and your standard 350mb 45 minutes DivX file. Which is to say I could see what was going on quite clearly (it defaults to full screen), but it was still not quite high enough quality that I'd want to watch a full TV show on there. Very impressive though, under the circumstances.
So far as available content is concerned, you're basically limited to some trial clips, including things like World's Strongest Man, a few Discovery Channel documentaries, some behind the scenes Red Hot Chilli Peppers footage, and such like. Full list of content available on the Joost Wikipedia page.
The user interface was very nice, I have to say. They've included some gorgeous, instantly iconic touches. The loading sequence is eyecatching - you can see it on this episode of dl.tv. The menus for accessing and controlling content are intuitive and attractive (screenshots here and here). They've made it simple to chat with friends about whatever you're watching (that will be HUGELY popular). And when you turn it off, it shrinks to a dot on the screen, in a homage to the old CRT TVs of yore. The designers have done a wonderful job.
So will it be a hit? Undoubtably. It offers pretty much everything YouTube offers, but much better, and the chatting feature will be a huge hit. Once the quality improves (which may be governed by the average upload speed of the participating audience, though clearly I'm not sure), then I can see myself using this.
It's all good.