Startup Gets 'Joost' Up

The Venice Project, the Internet-TV venture backed by the founders of Skype, last week hung a new name on its service — Joost, pronounced “juiced” — though it's still several months from officially launching.

Joost provides on-demand “broadcast-quality” video content distributed using a peer-to-peer networking architecture, with interactive features like chat. The service remains in an invitation-only beta test phase with plans to launch on a commercial basis sometime this year.

The Joost name “has global appeal, embodies fun and energy, and will come to define the 'best of TV and the best of the Internet,' ” CEO Fredrik de Wahl said by way of explanation. He also said Joost will quickly expand its beta program.

Joost, free to Internet viewers on their Windows computers, displays brief ads between video segments. Advertisers in the trial include T-Mobile USA, Maybelline and gum-maker Wrigley.

The wild card for Joost is whether it will provide content that keeps large numbers of people glued to the PC. “At this point, it's anybody's guess whether Joost will live up to the hype,” said James L. McQuivey, a professor at Boston University's College of Communication.

For now, it's offering a buffet of music videos and lifestyle programming apparently aimed at techno-literate fans of youth culture. For example, Paris Hilton, the hotel heiress and aspiring dance-music artist who's signed with Warner Bros. Records, has her own channel on the beta version of Joost, as do other of the label's acts, like the Red Hot Chili Peppers.

In addition to Warner Music Group, Joost content partners include National Geographic; the IndyCar Series; VOY, an English-language Latino programmer; Havoc Television, a producer of music and action sports content; and Off the Fence, a Dutch documentary producer.

Joost software currently runs only on high-powered Windows XP PCs — minimum hardware requirements are a 1-Gigahertz processor, 512 Megabytes of memory and 500 Mb of free disk space — and needs a downstream Internet connection of at least 1 Megabit per second.

The startup is backed by Janus Friis and Niklas Zennstrom, the duo that founded free-Internet-phone company Skype, which sold to eBay for $2.6 billion. They also created the Kazaa file-swapping software, which was the target of a successful copyright-infringement lawsuit by music companies.

The company developing the Joost service is incorporated as Baaima N.V., with a mailing address on the Caribbean island of Curaçao. Baaima, founded in 2005, now has about 150 employees, according to an Associated Press report.