Boxee springs new API, Hulu work-around

At an event on Tuesday evening in New York, the start-up makes a series of developer- and content-related announcements.

More than 800 digital-media enthusiasts in New York RSVP'd for a Tuesday night "meet-up" held by Boxee, the TV browser software company that's ambitiously (and controversially) aimed to make it possible to have a full Web content experience in your living room.

Right now, Boxee sources content from outlets such as Comedy Central, Netflix, CBS (which publishes CNET News), and Web video content hubs such as Blip.tv and Next New Networks.

In conjunction with the get-together, Boxee (still available only for Mac and Linux) made a few notable announcements: First of all, it's overhauled its application program interface (API)--which was only three weeks old to begin with--so that developers can build more complex applications for the platform.

There are a few new ones at launch: streaming-radio provider Pandora now has an application to bring its content to Boxee, as well as terrestrial-radio hub RadioTime. A third-party company called BoxeeHQ has also created an app to stream content from PBS.

Boxee's content-browsing software is now built on the XUL framework, which makes it a "remote cousin of Firefox," CEO Avner Ronen said. It will detect a video in a regular Web page and then attempt to pull it into a full-screen view. Guess what this means: Content from Hulu will be back, at least for now.

For those who stepped in late: Hulu, the joint venture between NBC Universal and News Corp., had been available as a channel on Boxee until access was blocked at the request of content partners. Boxee brought it back by pulling in Hulu's RSS feed, but then Hulu blocked that too.

Still in alpha test mode, Boxee has gained a loyal following among geeks who love its hackability, futurists who see it as the best hope for the why-won't-it-happen-already convergence between TV and the Web, and people fed up with subscription cable services. But on the flip side, it's still unclear as to how the start-up will dig through the complicated stratigraphy of media industry regulations, and it's also unclear as to how it will make money.

Ronen hinted that an "app store" format will be part of its strategy, letting developers charge for their applications and taking a cut of sales, in addition to advertising. Also down the pipeline: an improved search feature that will let members search all Boxee content at once rather than only within individual content providers one at a time.

Boxee also released its first iPhone app this month. It's not a video app, though--it's an app to remotely control the Boxee browser over a Wi-Fi connection. Ronen says the company's received "great feedback" on it.

 

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