Can video-streaming site Joost avoid going off the air?

Video streaming Website Joost will sell most of its assets to Adconion in a bid to stay alive

Way outdone by rivals like Hulu and YouTube, Web video service Joost is now in the throes of winding down, only two-and-a-half years after its rollout with very high hopes by Skype co-founders Janius Friis and Niklas Zennstrom.

Adconion Media Group announced on Tuesday that it has acquired "certain key assets" from Joost, a venture that had already switched its strategy last July to providing "white-label" video platform technology to cable, satellite, and other companies interested in publishing video to the Web.

Adconion, which dubs itself the "largest independent global audience and content network," said in a statement that Joost will continue to operate, except now as a "destination site" for Adconion clients to showcase and distribute their branded content.

Last summer's morph into the role of video technology provider doesn't exactly represent the first time that Joost has switched gears in efforts to stay intact.

On its commercial launch date of May 1, 2007, Joost was offering more than 150 channels of video. More than 30 global advertisers - including the Coca-Cola Company, Intel, HP and Nike - had already signed on to help fund the project.

From the outset, though, many users weren't entirely thrilled with the service. In a review published in PC World later that month, Mark Sullivan pointed to "intermittently poor video quality" and "limited program choices so far." Complaints along these lines continued to plague Joost.

In April of 2008, an article in the Sunday Times of London sparked widespread rumors of major retrenchments at Joost, reporting that the start-up had dumped its initially global plans in favor of a US focus.

At the end of that year, Joost finally decided to move to drop its long-time P2P desktop client technology - criticized by some users as inefficient and overly bloated - in favor of a Flash-enabled Web browser.

Although plenty of legal and business troubles also ensued along the way, Joost's failure to adopt Web browser technology earlier on seems to have been the biggest factor behind its death knell.

YouTube saw success in airing short video clips with its own Flash-based Web approach. Meanwhile, Hulu came on to the scene with browser technology enabled by DivX, a technology touted as particularly adept at compressing lengthy video segments while still producing high video quality.

Joost's ultimate move to browser technology does seem to have helped, but it came too late. In May of 2009, Joost had 643,365 unique visitors, a nearly 23 percent gain over April, according to Compete, a Web analytics firm that offers a free comparison tool on its Web site. In glaring contrast, however, YouTube had 76.4 million unique visitors, and Hulu.com had 8.2 million.

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Jacqueline Emigh

PC World (US online)
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