September 16th, 2007

Visit to Geni

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I visited on their invitation yesterday.

The first time I come across Geni was on Techcrunch when it amazed everyone with a US$100M for a 7-weeks old company. They are founded by a bunch of ex-Paypal and eBay employees.

I finally got around playing with their tool and I have to say I am pretty amazed at what they did. They are quite proud in what they have, and is not shy to say they have a web “a grandmother can use”. And it is probably true.

But of course, the cool AJAX interface/usability is only part of the puzzle. What is more important is whether the social network is actually useful. And they seem to have the answer:

1. Genealogy, according to them, is one of a popular hobby in US. I can imaging that is kind of hobby one would take up when you grow older and from our conversation, thats seem true.

On the other hand, they admitted that most of their family trees are currently started by younger generation. This is going to be challenging to them to market to the right market segment.

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May 4th, 2007

Joost vs PPLive


Recently, I got invited to Joost, the new Peer to Peer TV service started by the folks behind Skype. The UI is certainly pretty and lots of eye candy. But at this moment, there is hardly anything interesting that I would watch but hey, it is a great start.


The concept of Peer to Peer TV however is not new. It is first discussed in an academic paper titled Coolstreaming (Wikipedia). With the release of their source codes spur the several P2P TV service like PPLive which I blog about 2 years ago.


PPLive is grow stronger everyday in China. The barrier is that it is still pretty a Chinese software so it is not appealing to the English speaking community. Therefore, I think Joost will be at least successful as PPLive, appealing to those outside China.

January 18th, 2006

A look at IPTV


Triple Play is a wordbuzz in the industry for the last few years, most notable by equipment manufacturers who is trying to justify why telcos and ISPs should upgrade their infrastructure to handle the demand of video or IPTV. Numerous analysis reports from the likes of IDC also predicted a huge growth in demand; a simple Google search yields numbers like 36M subscribers in Europe by 2009, market boom from 262M in 2005 to 2.9B 2009, etc, thus fueling the interests in IPTV. Therefore, it is not surprising that IPTV has been the focus of CommunicAsia 2005.

However, the reality is not as rosy, as expected in any emerging technology. While there are some notable success in IPTV in various countries, the numbers generally hovers around the 200k to 500k subscribers. Countries which is deploying IPTV finds that it is taking off rather slowly, for a variety of reasons, like expensive CPEs (compared to cable) or monopoly of contents by incumbents (an interesting story for another day).

The main reason however is that many operators are dabbling with IPTV both with anticipations and with reservations. They never really gone all the way to promote the service. One of the reasons is the technical requirements to support IPTV.
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October 31st, 2005

Is P2P TV Legal?


I have a great morning at work! I am feeling the same excitement I had two year ago when I first started working on VoIP except this time is on another technology. As a matter of principle, I dont blog about my work but just wanted to spread the joy :-)

On another topic, I noticed my entry on P2P TV generated a lot of interest. Someone left a comment : “is this legal?” This is actually a 2-dimension question : (1) are you asking about the technology or the content (2) which jurisdiction?

Lets ignore the jurisdiction for a moment but generally speaking, I don’t see whats legal or illegal about the technology despite what RIAA/MPAA wants you to think otherwise. Just like a knife can be use in both good and bad things, any technology can be used for good and bad things. Do we outlaw TCP/IP because IP packets may be used to help criminals? Do we ban HTTP because it can be used to distribute child pornography? Do we regulate cars because it can kill people? So why are we having this debate on a technology like P2P?

As for the content, I am not a lawyer but let me share a story:

In 1948-52, there is a big mess in the TV spectrum allocation in US and many (small) towns are unable to get any TV signals as FCC stop issuing licenses to re-examine its framework (aka, “The Big Freeze”). During that time, along came a new technology known as “cable”. Entrepreneurs started putting up antennas on hilltop, lay cables through these small towns and then re-transmit over-the-air TV channels through their cable to the homes (charging a fee of cos).

As expected, the TV stations/copyright owners sued the cable for copyright infringement. The US Supreme Court ruled in 1968 in the landmark lawsuit Fortnightly Corp. vs United Artists Television that there is no copyright infringement. And the cable companies went on to become what they are today.

I am not saying this is the same as P2P TV altho it sound similar. What is significant is that with a little tolerance, a whole new industry can be created from a little technology. What’s more important is that eventually the cable companies did find peace with the content owners and in fact, makes more money for them.

September 30th, 2005

Peer to Peer TV


It is finally here – Peer to Peer TV known as PPLive.

One of the biggest challenges in traditional IPTV is how to distribute to hundreds of thousand or millions of viewer at the same time (imaging “broadcasting” HDTV to 500,000 people @ 400-600kbps unicast stream and you’ll understand the bandwidth challenge). Multicast works but few ISPs support multicast streams not to mention lack of QoS.

Using P2P technology will overcome this – as you are watching live TV streams downloaded via your peers, you are also streaming to others on the network. Sure, there is a bit of time delay in getting your TV and sure, the QoS is not certain but (1) a few seconds delay is more than acceptable in broadcast TV and (2) experience using PPLive so far give very high quality TV as long as you have sufficient bandwidth. This would be the good time to upgrade to the 10mbps broadband you wanted but have no idea what’s do with extra bandwidth :-)

Back to PPLive, it is a software from China and currently, it supports 80-90 channels mostly broadcast from China. And for those who can’t read Chinese, here is the direct download link. Don’t worry, the software supports English :-)

Have fun. Just make sure upgrade your broadband :-)