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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 group Downhill Battle — 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.

Though most of the initial content will be video blogs and independent media, the group also has an agreement to distribute programming from former Vice President Al Gore’s new television operation,, CNET News reported.

Anyone will be able to publish into the system by using tools the foundation already produces for turning video into fast-downloading BitTorrent files. 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.

The Open Media Network will be providing its index to Google and the 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 ultimately wind up 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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