TV over the Net: Not quite legal yet, but a nice proof of concept

We all love wasting time on YouTube, so imagine if you could waste even more time by watching whole TV shows online. Well, imagine no more, because the future has arrived

Ian Morris
2 min read

You remember Napster, right? Not the legal one, the one that went before it, the one that meant universities across the world had to get bigger Internet pipes just to cope. Napster started the revolution of digital music and introduced the world to a new idea: getting media over the Internet. Now Napster has gone legit, but we probably wouldn't even have iTunes if it hadn't been for Shaun Fanning and his early shenanigans.

Back in the day, Napster was an exciting new technology that opened doors we hadn't previously considered. Indeed, these early illegal sites employed some really cool technology. The quality of an MP3 in those days was pretty rubbish -- 128k was pretty much the highest quality file you could find -- but it was a proof of concept, and we all know where the technology ended up. Now there are 100 million iPods in the world and quite a few other MP3 players.

We've been waiting ages for a legitimate service to bring the same convenience to video on-demand. The BBC has its iPlayer and Channel 4 offers its content via 4oD. While we love the idea, these programmes both have their own problems, not least of which is DRM and a lack of support for non-Windows machines.

Enter the DivX video-sharing sites that seem to be springing up all over the place, offering ways for us to catch up on our favourite shows, simply by visiting a Web page. We've looked at one called Joox, but there are dozens of these sites. Some, such as All of TV, opt for Flash video instead of DivX, and some are dedicated to movies, like Cinema Tube and Online Cinema.

It's all similar to YouTube, but with normal television instead of some 15-year-old girl trying to lip-sync to a ghastly pop song. You can watch old episodes of Arrested Development or even laugh at the comical opening section of Arnold Schwarzenegger's Commando, where he manages to act both 'tough guy' and 'loving father'.

Of course, it's totally illegal, so we couldn't possible condone it, or link to it, but at the same time, we really want this service to be legit. What better way to spend a boring lunch hour than by catching up on old episodes of your favourite TV show, or even discovering new programmes you didn't get to watch the first time round? Indeed, you could make the argument that these sites might boost DVD box-set sales.

One thing is for certain -- it's always the illegal sites that prove the technology. We can only hope that the content creators get their act together soon and provide their content for us to enjoy, even if that does involve some sort of payment. -Ian Morris