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Venice Project nears liftoff

While BBC's iPlayer ambles into another trial

The smart choice: opportunity from uncertainty

Reports are beginning to come in thick and fast from the beta program for the Venice Project, the code name for the P2P streaming TV player designed by the same people that wrote Kazaa and Skype.

All those that have seen it say Skype designers Niklas Zennstrom and Janus Friis and a handful of partners are almost ready to launch the service as a broadcast, scheduled, streamed service. Presumably, anyone will be able to launch their own TV channels over the software with perhaps a revenue share for the authors.

Those that have seen it, talk about the video being "near high definition" and sitting in conventionally programmed TV channels, which are supported by advertising. We're sure it's not high definition, and it may even be variable definition, depending upon your bandwidth, but it may well be high quality.

Skype is known for using a 1024 bit encryption that makes it totally secure and the same class of AES technology should be brought to bear on this service to convince content owners that their content will come under no piracy risks. The system will also come with channel personalisation tools and instant messenger style chat and will come out of controlled beta at some stage next year.

Skype was a pioneer in using Power nodes, PCs which have the P2P clients installed, which have enough capacity to temporarily store reasonable amounts of distributed database, for instance the Skype phone directory. This technique could be used to hold EPG data and the current video streams, and forward them to other users as they sign in.

Our guess is that content will not be about a big negotiation with Hollywood, but will allow virtually anyone to start a TV channel, and have it attached to a favorites list, so that Hollywood is dragged to use this system, and Zennstrom and the others don't have to court the major studios.

The long gestation of the BBC iPlayer seems to continue on into the future, and now finally goes out to 20,000 test users who can see 1,000 hours of archive programming, both TV and radio.

We first heard of the iPlayer two years ago. Now the new trial will begin in early 2007 and last six months. Eventually, the P2P based iPlayer should offer all BBC current programming and its creative archive to UK homes for free, as well as provide a revenue base from outside the UK, but developments like Venice Project are moving much faster than the BBC, and it could find itself overtaken by events.

Copyright © 2006, Faultline

Faultline is published by Rethink Research, a London-based publishing and consulting firm. This weekly newsletter is an assessment of the impact of the week's events in the world of digital media. Faultline is where media meets technology. Subscription details here.

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