Generativity — Take 2: Hulu has issues closing itself

I didn’t want to appear hostile to the idea of generativity, a notion that I found far more appealing to economics then what J. Zittrain seems to assume; hopefully, the most recent development of the Hulu/Boxee disagreement gives me the opportunity to call a quick-sanded fool when I see one.

Hulu is a fantastic free video-on-demand service that has all the features right: great quality & fast stream, all the right content, well structured; the distribution technology is a massive CDN and might benefit from some P2P support to be more affordable, but the ads are relevant enough to make the whole thing possibly profitable.  However, it has been fighting against people outside of the US accessing the service (nothing was done, in spite a clearly identified existing demand: that’s just lawyers’ unacceptable laziness) and is not preventing Boxee users to access it through a specific hardware (I guess because of the ad-filtering DVR larger screen); the latest technique seems to include a convoluted HTML encrypting.  Both battles seem to be loosing grounds.   The third axis of generativity that Hulu is killing with its artificial barriers are social aspects: if a hacker wants to develop a Hulu-based live video commenting system using Facebook Connect, well. . . Too bad.  Letting many test early adopter test such systems, suggest their own, even offer a sea of solutions would have been the profitable, generative way to go — presumably opening the way to far more relevant socially targeted ads.  I’m starting to see a pattern of executives killing good ideas early, and that worries me.

I’d love to say the similar things about the current debate in France on three-strike laws — but the talks are simply too depressing.

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About Bertil

I'm a PhD student in Digital Economics, and I love viennoiserie. Je suis un doctorant en économie (numérique) et j'aime la viennoiserie.
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3 Responses to Generativity — Take 2: Hulu has issues closing itself

  1. Jason says:

    I just thought I’d clarify something. Boxee plays all the advertisements. It uses the flash player provided by Hulu, instead of playing back the stream like other devices.

    So, the only difference between boxee and a PC is that boxee is intended to be connected to a larger display (TV).

  2. Bertil says:

    So the only difference it makes is the size of the scrieen? And it’s not even an exclusive difference: many display used as TV now can be plugged to a computer through cable, Apple TV, etc. I’m loosing all faith in content executives.

  3. Jason says:

    You are correct Bertil, the differences are:

    1) Boxee is fullscreen all the time.
    2) The Boxee UI is designed to work with a TV.

    Otherwise, the content is as presented by Hulu, advertisements and everything. Boxee doesn’t include stream rippers, or do anything that your browser doesn’t do. In fact, the latest versions use xulrunner, so it really is indistinguishable from the browser.

    The consensus seems to be that Hulu’s owners (Fox/NBC) are concerned about undercutting their revenues from their affiliates, cable networks and syndication.

    http://blog.boxee.tv/2009/03/06/new-version-hulu-update/

    http://blog.hulu.com/2009/2/18/doing-hard-things

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