Zach Beauvais

Hulu, News Corp, and the Web (2.0?)

Written by Zach Beauvais

Nov 28, 2007

I know this is behind the game, and that the bleeding edge of blog reviews has moved well beyond online streaming service Hulu (even though it’s not yet out to the public). But I received my beta invite last week and have had all this time to play around with it.

My initial thoughts: none.

No, not one initial thought. Hulu doesn’t work in the UK. They don’t tell you: “Hey, if you live in the UK, you will be able to access and begin your Hulu experience, but when you choose a show to stream, you’ll be disappointed. Have a nice day.” You have to jump through all the Beta hoops to get there first.

Now, I know I should have known better, being a generally web-savvy chap. But after a few pre-reviews of the Hulu service, I decided not to read any more blogs about it until after I’d tried it out myself. I knew not to expect too much, after reading the last review over at Between the Lines , but I wanted my own experience.

Since then, I’ve found dozens of blogs about how bad it is that Hulu doesn’t work in Europe. Aside from whingeing about the lack of support, I can’t really think of anything more to write about Hulu (apart from its ridiculous, trying-too-hard-for-the-Web-2.0-market name).

But, doesn’t this kind of go against point of the web? The idea that we can make connections, share content, stream and connect?

The principle of the internet is broken by this experiment, and I don’t think a platform intended to be a YouTube killer should ever have been trialed in a geographically-limited network. Sure, I understand private Betas, but why limit this to the States? I don’t think News Corp really gets the Web 2.0 thing. In fact, I wonder if they really get the internet?

It reminds me of LaunchCast (now Yahoo Music). When I first launched the player, all the content was free, and there was absolutely loads of it. I was thrilled! Over months, however, content became harder to find due to advertisement interruptions and restrictions on skipping tracks. Suddenly, Launch re-directed to Yahoo, and I could no longer skip any content without upgrading to a premium service which hadn’t existed before. Then, when I moved to Britain, all the content was unavailable apart from a limited selection which I can only presume was intended for a British audience. (Don’t think my mates here would have agreed in a focus group!)

I haven’t used a yahoo service since. No, seriously, I haven’t used Yahoo. As soon as Konfabulator was purchased by Yahoo, I uninstalled it. I was all set to set up a Flickr account, when I found out it was Yahoo. (I might go back on that one, once I get a decent digital camera.)

This wasn’t really a boycott so much as a pre-emptive decision. I know that as soon as Yahoo gets a hold of a service, its user-friendliness will dissolve into advertisements and ‘premium services’ (a contradiction in terms!) This is what Hulu reminds me of. An attempt at grabbing a market instead of a well-thought-out startup trying to sell a genuinely good service and make a profit on its quality.

What is Web 2.0? Hulu doesn’t know, and it makes me think that News Corp hasn’t really got its head round it at all. I shudder to think what’s going to happen with LinkedIn.

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