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The Venice Project brings P2P to TV

Convergence can be an awkward thing. New ideas are often disruptive and inconvenient. So having a technology like The Venice Project that sort of falls between the two stools of being convergent and disruptive, then as an entrepreneur, you have to be light on your toes.

For the likes of founders Niklas Zennstrom and Janus Fries of Skype and Kazaa fame, I’d imagine these things are not too much of a surprise. In fact, I’m willing to bet that they approach barriers to opportunities so aggressively with every intention of turning them into a strength.

When barriers become opportunities

A perfect example of such a barrier – one that would form a withering wall of containment to most – is the issue of bandwidth and the overuse thereof:

“Internet television system The Venice Project could break users’ monthly internet bandwith limits in hours, according to the team behind it.

It downloads 320 megabytes (MB) per hour from users’ computers, meaning that users could reach their monthly download limits in hours and that it could be unusable for bandwidth-capped users.”

That’s a problem.

So if we accept that these guys knew about this, then what do they hope to gain?

Well, let’s remind ourselves of the most important phrase any good web designer & developer should know off by heart: content is king.

Now, you don’t have to be a web designer & developer to appreciate the merits of that statement, oh no. Just talk to any mobile services operator, like Verizon, Cingular, Orange, BT et al.

Right now, these guys are busting their balls to find the right content to shove down their wired and wireless networks.

So maybe Niklas and Janus are betting that putting a TV station in everyone’s home is an intriguing way of piquing the interest of the Internet Service Providers?

Other than a revenue model built around some cut of the built-in advertising of The Venice Project, I’m not sure where else the money might come from, other than charging people more for their broadband accounts. But maybe things aren’t all that bad with what The Venice Project:

“The bandwidth that Venice uses is not outrageous – it is on par with downloaded movies encoded in DivX format, which are about 600MB per 2 hour movie, and not too far from the likes of what Apple offers through the iTunes Store.”

Let’s not forget, when Skype launched way back when, universities, colleges, US states and entire countries tried blocking it. In the end, the outpouring of complaints from disgruntled users forced a climb-down on all fronts.

Then there’s the software for The Venice Project itself, which might not work within your favourite web browser:

“[The guys behind The Venice Project have] shunned the browser and are requiring a separate software download to use the product. Unless it’s highly viral, it isn’t going to fly given the very popular, and browser based, YouTube alternative.”

I’m not too sure I agree with them on this one.

In using YouTube as an example, they didn’t need to have a separate player, so that’s not an issue. But I’m sure if they felt that they did need to go down that route, YouTube would have still worked, anyway:

“A very interesting disclosure–like Songbird, another startup, part of the product is built on the Mozilla application framework.”

For those that haven’t played around with Songbird yet, have a look at a review of mine and see what you think.

Now there’s a little bird that could very well give the other guys a clue or two about how to pull the web into things and make music more accessible.

So if the guys behind The Venice Project are as good as their previous works, then there’s no reason why they can’t make a media player so compelling and so easy to use that people won’t have too much of a problem downloading and using it.

Look at it like this: The Venice Project player might just be the last small download you’ll every do.

Homemade TV

What makes The Venice Project doubly intriguing is the fact that instead of taking content from elsewhere, they hope to build their own content.

To my mind at least, seeing this through the eyes of a businessman with a modicum of insight into how this stuff works out, the novelty factor would have worn off within a microsecond of then probing the ramifications of sculpting original content for a nascent technology that is aiming to carve out an entirely new niche.

There’s no doubting the truly ambitious nature of what these guys have in mind.

But then, if they’re playing this right, they probably wouldn’t have to build up too much content themselves initially. This is after all an infrastructure, so the long-term goal is to open up and allow others to add the content.

Maybe the timing is spot on as Podcasting turns to Vodcasting, or whatever the hell they call video on the Net these days.

Right now, The Venice Project is in a closed Beta testing stage, and reports are that despite the current lack of content, the signs are promising.

And given that they hope to foster content production for their eventual content delivery via The Venice Project, to quite a large extent, copyright issues just go away.

Much more to come, I’m sure, so don’t adjust your sets and stay tuned!

What is: The Venice Project?

The Venice Project is the code name for a P2P streaming TV player designed by the same guys that brought to you Kazaa and Skype.

Initially, it was thought that the Venice Project would run from a web browser, but it seems that’s not the case and that a separate client will be the end product.

Here’s something from The Venice Project website:

“We’re 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.”

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By Wayne Smallman

Wayne is the man behind the Blah, Blah! Technology website, and the creator of the Under Cloud, a digital research assistant for journalists and academics.

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