Venice Project Bowed as Joost

Two poster dudes for file-sharing and VoIP innovation have finally branded their foray into Web TV. Niklas Zennström and Janus Friis, the founders of Kazaa and Skype, unveiled Joost this week as the official name of the 'Net video experiment up to now referred to as "The Venice Project."

Currently in beta testing, Joost is being pushed as a service that combines "the best of TV and the best of the Internet." Unlike YouTube, Joost will not offer user-generated content, but streaming content from established providers. According to a report at Scientific American online, the list currently includes Warner Music and Endemol, a U.S. production company that does "Big Brother," "Deal or No Deal," "Fear Factor" and several other TV shows. The Indy Race League and September Films have also reportedly aligned with Joost. The same report lists Maybelline, T-Mobile and Wrigley as advertisers.

Billed as Web 2.0 service (more communal than the original search-driven iteration of the Web), Joost is said to have peer-to-peer functionality without the copyright headaches associated with previous file-sharing ventures like Kazaa. Zennström and Friis got out from under Kazaa six years ago as the music industry brought its copyright lawyers to bear full force. The two reached a $100 million legal settlement with the music industry last July.

The duo then started Skype, the free Internet phone service that "became the fastest growing start-up in history," according to USA Today. eBay bought Skype in October 2006 for $2.6 billion. Zennström remains the CEO. Some of the Skype windfall funded The Venice Project, which has been the subject of open source bloggers for a year or more.

The lessons of Kazaa were not lost on Friis and Zennström, a couple of former telco geek-drudges who went indie in 1999, and launched the P2P network about the time Napster was getting hammered in federal court. Joost is said to be powered by a "piracy-proof" platform that enables "interactive video experiences while guaranteeing copyright protection for content owners and creators."

Fredrik de Wahl, a previous colleague of Zennström and Friis, is CEO of Joost. The free service will require a broadband connection and include all manner of global content. de Wahl told SA about 50,000 beta testers took part in the site pre-launch. New users are invited to sign up at, but given the anticipation in open source community, the publicity of the launch, and the full-time staff of 100 people, a queue is forming.

"Please note," the site reads, "There's a lot of interest in Joost and we're receiving thousands of applications every day. We'll process your application as soon as possible, but it will take us a little while to get around to everyone."