Fads come and go and while at their peak they often get a lot of press attention. Babelgum and Joost are the two most mentioned names when it comes to Peer-to Peer IPTV, and both are trying to prove their marketplace is no fad.
London based, Joost has been the initial front runner. It was first to market, raised a large amount of capital, is signing up partners, hired a big name CEO, and even hired a talent agent. Babelgum’s PR machine hasn’t been as active in informing the world of their progress but the Ireland based company has been quietly moving ahead in preparation to compete. A few days ago, Babelgum rolled out its own beta offering.
Like Joost, access to Babelgum is limited to invitation, and like Joost, there’s a lot still being developed. The offerings are anything but complete. Still both are far enough along to merit a side by side comparison; so here’s a first look.
(And for those who’d rather try the services themselves, Metue can pass along invites. Either leave a comment to this post or email me from the Contact Page and be sure to put “Joost or Babelgum invite” in the subject along with which service you want to be invited to try.)
Now, without further ado, the ratings:
Both services use semi-transparent overlays to show action buttons. And both sites place them in similar positions. They appear and disappear with mouse-over activity or by clicking the screen. Despite different icons and features, the interfaces look on the surface, remarkably similar.
When it comes to icons, the Babelgum controls use icons more like traditional television remotes. Joost icons are more original but with Text and flashier graphics, they are still reasonably intuitive to use.
Both sites requires a sign in to begin, and having another password to remember is a nuisance. In Babelgum, exiting requires a right-click on the icon in your system tray (which you may need to minimize full screen mode to find). There isn’t a button (that I’ve found) in the program that allows an exit, instead a button only hides the program. I don’t like that. With Joost there is an exit button on the primary controls.
Overall, the interfaces are similar enough that it’s hard to pick a winner. Both had pros and cons, and on any given day could be used interchangeably with comparable satisfaction. I’d give the slight edge to Joost but only because I like their graphics better.
Babelgum has channels for News, Trends, Music, Sport, Documentaries, Lifestyle and Animation. A home for user-generated video content is also expected. Right now, in the early days of its release, the volume of programming within the channels is limited.
Joost has a much larger initial programming pool thanks to its partnerships with Viacom, CBS, Sports Illustrated, the NHL and others. The occasional ads that pop up on the screens are small enough to not steal your attention but a little annoying.
Babelgum provides a nice search function and some limited Web 2.0 Social functionality, specifically, the ability to rate programming.
Joost has integrated instant messaging and news feed services and a “Widget Menu” promised to house a variety of future applications. The Instant Messaging client, for those that want to use it, is integrated with Jabber and Gmail and seems to work reasonably well. Access to the “Widget Menu” does require you to have the application open in full screen mode
When viewing programs on a 17inch VGA monitor, the screen resolution, or image quality, was occasionally choppy in full screen mode with both services. I wouldn’t call the images crisp either. While resolution wasn’t horrible, it didn’t approach broadcast quality TV and it wasn’t substantially better, or worse, than watching a full screen rerun of television programming on the major networks sites (ABC, NBC, etc.) I was expecting something better but so far it’s not there yet.
Between the two companies the image quality was more or less the same. Purely based on personal observation and opinion I’d give the slight edge to Babelgum but it was only slight.
Overall, I’d give the initial advantage to Joost. They have deeper programming, a seemingly more ambitious feature plan, and a comparable interface but I wouldn’t rush to start using either service. They are both still very much beta applications and seem to have a long way to go before mainstream users will find them appealing enough to want to use.