Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Tape It Off The Internet

Just got back from three fantastic weeks in Australia and New Zealand (see Flickr photo sets) to an inbox laden with beta invites for an assortment of next generation online TV apps. First in was the BBC TV Test (which I won't write about because I work there), followed by Joost/The Venice Project (which I can't write about because it doesn't currently support Macs and my PC doesn't have enough graphics memory). Which leaves Tape It Off The Internet (a.k.a. TOITI) whom I don't for and which does work on Macs (hooray!).

Currently undergoing a 20,000 user beta test, TIOTI is essentially a TV guide for the download generation. At it's most basic level, it can be used for simply finding programmes. You type a keyword into the search box and it will scan titles, users, tags and groups to find matching programming. Each programme has an index page providing basic descriptive information and detailing all episodes (sorted by 'season').

The next level of functionality is acquisition. Alongside each of the episodes is an indication of whether the programme is available for download either from legal sources (e.g. iTunes, Amazon Unbox) or as an illegal torrent (although TIOTI doesn't link direct to the torrents but to third party torrent aggregation sites such as mininova, presumably for legal reasons).

Whilst a combined index of legal and illegal downloads is of marginal benefit, where TIOTI starts to get really interesting is around its Web 2.0 / social networking functionality. In addition to the Web 2.0 standards of tags, comments and ratings, TIOTI allows you to build up a database of your favourite programmes, keeping track of which episodes you've watched and alerting you (via RSS if you wish) when new episodes are made available for download. Your list of favourites also forms the basis for recommendations and can be shared with your friends. Planned functionality includes user Top 10s and badges representing your favourite shows and indicating which episode you're up to, helping to avoid spoilers.

The interface is nice and Ajaxy and the metadata model encourages users to add missing info. The site currently indexes 2,000+ (mostly US) shows (90,000+ episodes) and the FAQ states that "We will shortly be making tools available to create pages for shows yourself".

Whilst TIOTI's reliance on BitTorrent means it's likely to remain the preserve of early adopters for the immediate future, it provides an fascinating glimpse of some of the ways in which TV may be consumed in the future and stands as a compelling first stab at a one-stop shop for TV on-demand.

I've got 5 beta invites to give away so if you want one, drop me a line (dan at


James Cridland said...

I am a beta-tester for Joost, and while they've now put screenshots on their new website, they've not officially told us that we can write about it yet, so I'm not. Bah. And I so want to.

I played with Tioti before (I'm a beta-tester) and I couldn't see what all the fuss was about really. After your write-up, I still can't really. Is it me? I do hope so.

Dan Taylor said...

I don't think there's anything hugely innovative about TIOTI although it's interesting to see the sort of functionalty honed by other Web 2.0 propositions applied to the TV domain. I can see myself using it to keep track of my TV viewing/downloads assuming the programme catalogue continues to grow and if more of my friends sign up.