The future of Internet TV

November 13, 2007: 12:00 PM ET

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By Josh Quittner

[Productivity alert! If you expect to get anything done for the next few hours, please read no further.]

[Still reading? Yeah. Slacker.]

I have seen the future of television and it's an application called called Miro. The app makes it super easy to find and watch Internet TV. It handles HD feeds and seamlessly staples together BitTorrent streams. A free, open-source download, Miro goes into its 1.0 public release today, here.

I never realized that finding and watching video online was a problem. But it is. With the steady proliferation of Net TV shows -- not to mention all the things you might want to track on YouTube -- organizing your video feeds is increasingly painful. From BoingBoing, to Wired Science, to The Onion, everyone is doing video, and a lot of it is getting fun. Miro gives you a way to subscribe to and organize it all. Since it solves a problem you didn't know you had, it's one of those programs you have to use to appreciate.

After installing it, you're taken through a quick setup that lets you browse the Miro Guide, and subscribe to any of 2,714 of freely available channels and programs. You can add as many channels as you want, or simply add videos you find on the Web to a playlist. (All the major video portals are represented here, including YouTube, BlogDigger, Google Video, Yahoo!, Revver, Daily Motion, Blip.tv and Mefeedia.) You can also auto download programs as they become available on the channels.

For instance, I have become enamored lately of a YouTube auteur, jdarks, whose passion is teaching guitar hacks how to play like Jerry Garcia (one of my many sordid fantasies). With Miro, I simply created a channel for jdarks. Now, I have all his videos organized, and can quickly download and watch whichever clips I want. Miro automatically deletes the files after 5 days, so you don't chew up your hard drive. You can, however, elect to save your favorites.

Over the past few years, a half dozen folks in Worcester, Mass., who are affiliated with the Participatory Culture Foundation have been hacking away on Miro. "From a consumer point of view, it's just a really great experience -- it's a trivially easy way to subscribe to and consume high definition content," says John Lilly, who, besides being the COO of the non-profit Mozilla Foundation, is a PCF board member. "It breaks out of the little video box we're all used to in the browser. Mostly I love it because it just works -- no other video on the web is like that."

People can rate videos and get recommendations of the "if you like this, then you might like that" variety. Likewise, you can post videos to digg, de.licio.us, or reddit. Nicholas Reville, executive director of the project, says that even more social web functionality will be added as the application matures. "We are planning an extension system for version 2.0 that will open up a lot more of these types of opportunities."

Maybe Marc Andreessen is right. Perhaps, with the writer's strike and all that talent walking the picket line on the one hand, and on the other, all this terrific, cheap technology for distributing, organizing and watching Net TV, television is about to be reinvented. Something big is going on. GigaOm's first conference on Reinventing TV, is sold out tomorrow. Luckily, I got a ticket. Now, if only I can tear myself away from learning this Dark Hollow lick...

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