Babelgum has pushed itself public yesterday. On the surface it looks very similar to its more famous competitor, Joost. Both are P2P IPTV applications that let you flip through channels and shows streamed to your computer. Both are backed by deep pockets and big names. In Joost’s corner, Skype and Kazaa veterans Niklas Zenstrom and Janus Friis with $45 million in financing. Babelgum was started by FASTWEB founder Silvio Scaglia with $13.2 million invested.
Yet while the market and pedigree may be similar, the execution in each case differs.
The most noticeable difference between the two has been between the content each is streaming. Joost had the fortune of early hype and pulling together some big content deals from Viacom, CNN, Sony, and the NHL. They also have the benefit of some large media companies, CBS and Viacom, as investors. Similar to when Joost first launched, Babelgum currently streams more generic content from providers like the AP and National Geographic. The latest content deal of note has been Spike Lee screening some of his movie footage on the network.
Both applications have the same core functionality, allowing you to create your own personalized channel guide. Although, while both applications stream to your desktop, Joost allows you to skip forward and back, while Babelgum plays serially. The larger differences come in the social aspects of the program, of which Babelgum has none as of yet. Joost, however, uses a toolbox of widgets for things like chat rooms and bulletin boards.
The Babelgum interface is similar to Joost, but more complicated. Little things like not being able to double click on a clip to play it are annoying. Play back quality is reasonable; I experienced no buffering or choppiness in playback. Like Joost, playing a clip at full screen on a 22″ monitor doesn’t deliver good picture quality. If content is the driver in TVIP platform adoption, Babelgum won’t be going far. The content selection is nearly as poor as the navigation options; why have tags for videos if you can’t click on them?
Overall Babelgum feels like a poor man’s Joost. Competition in any field drives innovation and is good for the consumer, yet for Babelgum 2006 is calling and it wants its innovations back; writing on your front page that “Babelgum is a new way of conceiving television” when it is at best following Joost