Having come to the realisation that its standalone player was not attracting enough users, Joost decided to launch a web based version of its video player.
The beta version of this desktop player was launched yesterday, so I've been taking a look to see how it performs...
Not everyone can be bothered to download a standalone video player; it takes up time and system resources, so launching a web based version is a smart move.
As has been mentioned elsewhere on the blog though, having launched its web TV service long before Hulu and the iPlayer, Joost has taken too long to launch the desktop version.
Having a web based version should ensure that Joost gets more casual users via search engines, as long as it works well.
The service requires the installation of the Joost plugin as well as Flash, if you don't already have it, and this part is easy enough.
After this though, it wasn't exactly plain sailing, and I came across a few of these error messages, especially on Firefox:
The picture quality is reasonable for most of the 'official' shows or music videos I viewed, though the screen options are limited. You can choose to view in full screen mode or the standard size, but there is nothing in between.
Also, choosing to view in full screen mode means that the picture quality suffers, something that is not a problem on the iPlayer.
Also, a lot of the videos didn't play as smoothly as they might have done, and the controls to forward and rewind videos weren't too responsive:
The web based version has just been launched though, so hopefully Joost will deal with some of these issues and improve the general usability of the service.
Searching for content
One big problem with Joost, especially from a UK perspective, is finding something interesting to watch; content that will keep you coming back to the site.
If I use YouTube I can find pretty much any clip I want, while the online TV services from ITV, Channel 4 and the BBC are full of great content. On Joost, despite the deals it has made with Viacom, CBS and others, the shows on offer are less appealing.
Searching is another problem. Since I last looked at Joost there is a lot more content on there, which means users need a bit more help to find something to watch.
Under the video player, the videos that people have been watching recently are displayed, while the JoostFeed tells you what others are viewing, while popular videos are shown to the right of the player.
You can search for TV shows, music and film by category, but many of these searches still leave you with too many results to trawl through. A better search / filtering system is required.
The move to a web based player rather than a downloadable client is a good one, and should see Joost's user numbers increase.
Some of the usability problems I mentioned can be fixed relatively easily, but the problem of content still remains.
For US users, Hulu offers more recent and popular shows to watch, while the BBC's iPlayer beats it both for content and usability.