I’ve intentionally kept this blog free of references to where I work. Back in the days of The Venice Project, there was just a lot more publicity surrounding the startup than I wanted to deal with here. I also figured that by not mentioning my place of work, I could rant about it a bit in general terms without fear of damaging my employer. By now, though, there’s no reason to keep quiet any longer.
Don’t misunderstand that, I’ve no intention of spreading gossip either. But my time at Joost was a once in a lifetime experience, and when all is said and done, I’m incredibly sad that it’s over.
I joined The Venice Project in January 2007, after an intriguing interview in October 2006. I vividly remember the first glimpse of the then peer-to-peer backed client at the Leiden offices. People these days take high quality video on the internet for granted, but less than three years ago, what I saw was revolutionary.
What I saw was some part of a Fifth Gear episode, on a 20+ inch screen, streaming in real-time, full-screen, in near-lossless quality, with a startup delay of a second or three. I was stunned. I remember my first reaction was saying something along the lines of “I’d pay for that!”, to which the guy I interviewed with said “It’ll be free”. I replied I knew that, but if it wasn’t, I’d still pay for it.
Of the rest of the interview, I don’t remember very much. There was an embarrassing moment where I replied to a question with all the conviction of someone absolutely sure of himself, only to be reminded a few moments later that I’d confused the topic with something else. I remember the then-CTO, Dirk-Willem van Gulik, telling me something about the future plans of the company. After seeing the tech, and that vision of the future, I knew there and then that I had to be part of this ground-breaking new company.
And we did break ground, quite literally. Joost created the space for professional content on the internet. Before us, the only video on the web were highly pixellated YouTube videos of people’s cats, or illegally ripped music videos. Before us, big media knew they had to deal with the internet in some way, but for the life of them didn’t figure out how.
And then… hulu happened. And we weren’t entirely free of blame for that, suffice to say. Hulu then got all the good content that we’d been trying to get our hands on, and quickly domineered the market we initiated, proving once again that content is king.
One transformation of Joost later, and the client got dropped in favour of a browser plugin. Another, quick to follow, and the plugin went the way of the dodo, to be replaced by a flash player. The argument, not without merit, was that in order to draw in viewers, we needed to be more accessible. It also meant our distinguishing factors and unique tech went out the window, and instead of being market leaders, we started playing catch-up with the competition.
It’s now a good year later, and the remainder of Joost plans to focus on the tech again, realizing that the content game is lost. I’m afraid that’s going to be too late, but I wish everyone still employed the best of luck.