Can Joost be saved? Web-based version reportedly on the way

A long profile of the once-hot company in Portfolio magazine hints that Joost is on track to release a Web-based version of its downloadable software.

This post was updated at 10:12 AM PT to correct the spelling of Joost CEO Mike Volpi's name.

Could a browser-based version of its peer-to-peer software save Joost, the heavily hyped video start-up founded by the creators of Skype and Kazaa?

Portfolio's Kevin Maney wrote a lengthy profile of the once-hot company, and buried inside is a juicy tidbit about a future development: "This year, viewers will be able to watch Joost videos in a browser window," the profile read. Right now, Joost requires a software download, which critics have said is one of its prime setbacks when just about every other online video start-up is browser-based. "Go to Joost's Web site, click on shows like Seth Green's edgy Robot Chicken or an old Rocky and Bullwinkle episode and you can watch them as easily as you'd watch a video on YouTube." Well, that all depends on the technology working as smoothly as YouTube, and the quality being up to par.

Representatives from Joost were not immediately available to confirm that a Web-based version of the video player is on track for later in 2008.

Joost could use a boost. Once touted as a "YouTube killer" that would address rampant online video piracy by offering professional content creators access to a high-quality video platform and revenue from top-notch advertisers, it fell from favor when the content proved tepid and more enticing competitors sprang up--namely Hulu, the joint video venture between NBC Universal and News Corp.

Recently, CBS Interactive President Quincy Smith, whose company counts Joost among the partners in its "Audience Network" of online video outlets, said that he hasn't given up on it and that CEO Mike Volpi "knows what he's doing."

And perhaps Joost can resuscitate itself. While the Web-based Joost remains shadowy, the company has been making other moves: experimenting with live TV programming, for one, starting with the NCAA basketball championship. It's a good PR move, as the availability of "March Madness" games has, at least for now, put Joost back into the vocabulary of Web users--and onto the computer screens of workplace procrastinators.