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Could live P2P video be the antidote to YouTube dross?

Craptown Utd gets its own TV station

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The blogosphere recently got into a froth over Microsoft-backed UK firm Skinkers, which is trying to flog a live broadcast peer-to-peer system similar to ICD. It was erroneously reported as a "YouTube killer", which sent web savants into a tailspin of Google vs Microsoft wittering. In truth, like RawFlow's ICD, it was aimed at businesses and broadcasters.

The parallels between Selfcast and YouTube are harder to dismiss, but the live element ought to drive more forethought and quality from users. The tedious talking heads who dominate YouTube's original content will doubtless pitch up on Selfcast, though armchair pundits will probably find that none of their friends will bother to make an appointment to view their soliloquy. The posterity incentive for California teens to record their musings on why George W Bush is such a douchebag is gone too: shows disappear from Selfcast as soon as the broadcast is over.

Copyright owners are now wise to the freewheeling approach to intellectual property that helped score YouTube's founders a $1.6bn cheque from Google 18 months after they launched. Selfcast makes the usual noises about working with copyright owners to clamp down on infringement, and blocking IP addresses of repeat offenders. It also adopts the standard "neutral carrier" stance favoured by Google, ISPs, and their libel lawyers.

Soothing words may prove unnecessary: the average web video pirate is very precious about his bandwidth, so the appeal of repeatedly broadcasting episodes of the Daily Show over Selfcast is diminished. You can't afford to waste precious upload Kilobits smashing the pigopolist system when you're one mana point off ascending to the next druid level. Or something. For the record, Selfcast uploads at about 250Kb/s.

Of course, if the site does take off, the ambulance chasers will start paying attention, so if users start broadcasting their own Premiership football shows, for example, RawFlow will have a legal problem to deal with. The Selfcast interface makes it trivial to drop in clips grabbed from TV, and quality is better than YouTube.

When we spoke to Dissing in July, RawFlow's business model for Selfcast was foggy at best (file under the speculative "if we build it, they will come" approach to online advertising). Earlier this week, however, it bought Aggregator TV, on online video concern backed by Intel which focuses on subscriptions and payment systems.

Dissing said: "The whole ethos of Aggregator was that even small or medium sized content providers should be able to make money from the content they provide, this is the ethos and future of Selfcast also."

It may be that for RawFlow, Selfcast is more a showcase for its distribution technology than a serious business in its own right, but it seems serious about attracting quality live shows. Selfcast is here. ®

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