Joost Leapfrogs to Flash, Dropping Plug-in Too

As expected, Joost is launching a Flash version of its Internet TV player tonight — though as part of testing it’s been somewhat available over the last few days.
Joost had previously been available as a software download, but that method for online video watching has fallen out of favor in the U.S., as did the company. Less than a month ago Joost stopped offering a full desktop app in favor of a small browser plug-in that managed peer-to-peer streaming. But Joost CEO Mike Volpi told us today that the company is actually dropping downloads altogether for the time being. Even users who have the new plug-in installed will default to Flash.

Volpi said the latest strategy change was “for simplicity’s sake,” and came in response to users’ lack of interest in downloading software due to security, privacy, and difficulty. He also emphasized that being web-based would make it easier for Joost to bring out its new social features, tie into existing web services (for example, it will be implementing Facebook Connect in the next month) and utilize search engine optimization.
When asked about how much more expensive streaming would be than relying on users to share bandwidth, Volpi said, “In the United States, the cost difference between peer-to-peer and direct streams are not that big, especially relative to the high video CPMs that we get.” But he noted that the situation is different in Latin America, Southeast Asia and China, so peer-to-peer may eventually be the way to go there.
The plug-in, said Volpi, will come back online after Joost finds suitable programming, such as live events, to justify its use. He did not provide a timeframe.
Joost, which now has 110 employees, has seen significant changes to its team as its strategy shifted. However, the same original recruits from the Apache Foundation (who wrote the P2P software download) wrote the company’s new streaming server, according to Volpi.
Alongside the launch tonight, Joost is also adding content from Warner Bros. including Friends, Veronica Mars and Gilmore Girls (though this will be a different selection of episodes from what is available elsewhere, said Volpi) and a bunch of movies. I’ll just include the full list in case one catches your fancy: The Blob, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Christine, The Fifth Element, Finding Forrester, Ghostbusters, Jerry Maguire, Jumanji, The Karate Kid (I, II and III), Legends of the Fall, Men in Black, The Professional, Sense and Sensibility, Sleepless in Seattle, Starship Troopers, Underworld: Evolution. None of this content will be available internationally, even though half of Joost’s users come from outside the United States.
Joost still doesn’t have full episodes of The Daily Show and The Colbert Report like Hulu does, even though Viacom is one of Joost’s investors. “Obviously we’d like to have them,” said Volpi.