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A new kind of DTV launches, without the transition

An organization called the Participatory Culture Foundation — an offshoot of the peer-to-peer activist Downhill Battle group — has launched the first beta version of its DTV software, an application that collects and distributes independent video online.

The software, initially for Apple’s Macintosh computers, has the clean lines of the popular iTunes, and full-screen video, all based on BitTorrent technology.

Anyone will be able to publish into the system, by using tools the foundation already produces for turning video into fast-downloading BitTorrent files, he said. A Windows version of the software will be available later in the year.

The new Internet TV service follows an explosion of similar activity this summer. Earlier this month, HDNet, the high-definition cable and satellite channel run by Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban, began experimenting with the release of its high-quality content online using the Red Swoosh peer-to-peer tools. The first release was a 20-minute, 1.3GB clip of the recent space shuttle launch, with more content promised over the coming weeks.

Public television broadcasters are moving into this peer-to-peer world much more quickly than their commercial counterparts. Many PBS stations are working with Kontiki founder and Apple veteran Mike Homer’s Open Media Network. Launched in April with the aim of collecting public television programming in one place online, the nonprofit network now has more than 15,000 files, with an emphasis on audio podcasts.

Open Media Network is giving viewers an active role in customizing the viewing experience. Rather than having television-like channels, the latest version of the Open Media Network software organizes its content by categories and comments that are constantly updated by users, a little like the way the popular creates links between subjects.

These nonprofit networks aren’t alone in switching their focus to video. As broadband connections proliferate, most of the major Internet companies are adding video to their service offerings. Yahoo, AOL and Google each are launching video search features, and Google has even offered to host independently produced video in its own databases.

The Open Media Network will provide its index to Google and other companies so that casual Web surfers can find links to the network’s content. Many predict that the core peer-to-peer technology will wind up being bundled with media players such as Apple Computer’s iTunes or Microsoft’s Windows Media, making video much easier to distribute.

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