Friday, September 16, 2005

The future of TV

With the advent of hdtv and bittorent, there has been a lot of talk lately on what the tv will look like in the future. The main argument is that as more and more people will be getting better broadband, the networks are looking into broadcasting their shows over the internet. It is very likely that instead of watching tv, the program will be first downloaded into a hard drive (what is the difference with tivo, anyway?) or it will be broadcasted live to everyone.

Here is where I saw one of the most great new ideas of the past few months: Sopcast is a great piece of software, still on experimental steps but it seems to me as the next step in evolution. It is a Peer-2-peer software (much like kazaa and bittorent) but instead of sharing files people share webcasts, which can include anything from live tv shows, home videos to webcams.

The great thing about this new idea is that everyone broadcasts to everyone else. Unlike normal webcasts that have a centralized server (which may get slowed down if too many people try to connect) in sopcast the more users you have the better the quality of the broadcast (since more people are sharing the same content).

The only reason this cannot work perfectly right now is that people have more download bandwidth than upload. When this situation soon gets better, picture this: It is much cheaper to install 10 low-usage servers that 1 huge one. HBO, NBC and all the other big guys will install a few main servers all over the country so that people can connect. Once this initial kick is given, millions of viewers will be webcasting also to everyone else the same shows around the globe... Just imagine how easy tv could spread to countries that have no cable infrastructure but good internet connections (like most countries around the world!). The possibilities are just endless.

It feels so nostalgic to use sopcast rigth now... There are only 10 channels around, with 10-20 people connected in each channel. It reminds me of the first days of the internet where I used to log into the chatrooms and newsgroups and I could only find 5-10 people, the feeling of the internet community for the few was so great back then. I was also happy to start following napster and bittorent in the same way, when only a few people knew and before starting to shutdown websites and sueing people. It's exactly the same thing, happening once again...