Hands-on with the new Joost: Software still required

The new Joost is no longer a piece of software, but you'll still need a special site-specific plug-in to run it.

Josh Lowensohn Former Senior Writer
Josh Lowensohn joined CNET in 2006 and now covers Apple. Before that, Josh wrote about everything from new Web start-ups, to remote-controlled robots that watch your house. Prior to joining CNET, Josh covered breaking video game news, as well as reviewing game software. His current console favorite is the Xbox 360.
Josh Lowensohn
3 min read

Joost on Friday finally took an important step forward by announcing that its desktop software would be getting phased out to make way for a Web watching experience. The only problem is that special software is in fact still required--and we're not talking Adobe Flash.

Whether you're on a Mac or a Windows machine, you'll still need to install an executable file on your computer to view videos. The new plug-in sits on your desktop taskbar even when you're not viewing the site, and apparently only begins to pipe data back and forth to other users when you're watching Joost videos.

The new version of the site will be available for beta testers in about two weeks time, although I've had the chance to nose around and watch a few videos on it today. Despite the need for software, it's impressive. Videos start playing in just a few seconds and when toggled for full-screen, the quality scales up nicely.

Like before, there are pre-roll ads, although I found them less intrusive and disjointed than Hulu's experience. The only anti-user ad interference I stumbled across was when a pre-roll ad kept me from being able to scroll through content on a playlist. I had to wait about five seconds for the ad to run before I could get back to finding something to watch. Not cool.

The new Joost player runs right in your browser as long as you've got a small peice of software running on your machine. (click to enlarge) CBS Interactive

The biggest thing missing from the new Joost is the feeling of immersion. The Joost application, for all it's faults, took you away from your desktop and everything else you were doing. Like up and comer Boxee, which runs off the core of Xbox Media Center, it's something that had personality and a really marvelous UI. The new version feels a tad sterile, although when it comes to browsing through episodes and series, there's noticeably less lag, and hey, you can continue to get work done on your computer at the same time.

The Joost software sits in your taskbar, ready to serve up vintage Star Trek. CBS Interactive

Noticeably gone from the new Joost (at least for now) is the user chat. You can still comment on a video and favorite it, but the feeling of a real-time experience has gone out the door. There's also a feature called "shout it out" that lets you flag the video with various pop culture acronyms like LOL, HOT, PUKE, and the generally useful WTF. Clicking on any of these will play a canned sound clip and alert you of your flag, although it has no noticeable effect.

Ultimately the Joost experience comes down to the content and the various ways to dig through it to find something good. While the existing playlists are very good for this, when you're searching by TV network or content provider it's still difficult to simply browse by shows. For instance, clicking on MTV took me to a player that randomly began playing Laguna Beach. Ideally, it would jump me to a list of shows where I could drill down a little deeper--like what was available before.

Software aside, I'm excited to see Joost hop onto the Web. There's a lot of good content on there that you can't find elsewhere, and experiencing it in your browser will seem like second nature for newcomers--that is as long as they're willing to jump through a software hoop.

More screens after the jump.

Joost's new channel guide is pretty straightforward, with a featured section and categories you can drill down into. CBS Interactive

Joost's video player is on the simple side, and fades in and out with mouse movement. You also get a description of the show when it's in full screen mode. CBS Interactive

You can find friends from existing networks by plugging in your account credentials. CBS Interactive