Thursday, April 19, 2007

TIOTI - TiVo for the Web? (A Review)

Yesterday I got an invite from the guys at TIOTI to beta test their system. I duly went about the drill and here are my brief thoughts.

TIOTI stands for Tape It Off the Internet. It is a site that's targeted at TV shows and provides Bit-torrent links to download shows off the net. I'm sure you must be wondering if the thing's legit. Well, that depends on a lot of factors. First of all, is TiVo legal? Umm, yes. We can record shows off our TVs and we all know how much these rips contribute to the over all scheme of things as far as TV piracy goes. These recorded shows go on to the computers and the web as bit-torrents. But then I digress. Let's focus on what's good about TIOTI and then move on to the gray areas.

TIOTI has an interface that's more like a social networking site for TV geeks which keeps a record of your TV viewing preferences based on what shows you have searched for and so on. It let's the users rate TV shows, create their own list of favorite TV shows, lets people add other 'friends' of similar interest to their list and like most Web 2.0 apps... allow people to subscribe to their RSS feeds. It's more or less like sites such as fanpop. But while fanpop links to shows hosted on sites that streamed video content, TIOTI links to bit-torrent files of TV shows episodes. Now I don't really want to get into the legalities of bit-torrent, since much has been said and fought over this issue of file sharing, but two things in particular interest me.

1. The presence of Amazon and other sponsor ads that direct the user to buy the DVDs.

Having an Amazon ad above the bit torrent links is like having an Apple store next to a chor bazaar, both selling essentially the same things with the obvious price difference. Of course in this case, the bit-torrent links are free and the prints are usually DVD rips.

2. The founder, Paul Cleghorn's thoughts on its legality.

He says "we'll work it out." But he seems to be riding the wave of this past year in the domain of online streaming of TV shows and the television networks' willingness to host their shows on their official sites. Linking to bit torrent files isn't a crime as TIOTI isn't hosting them in the first place. He is also looking around to tie up ad deals and you could read up his interview with TechCrunch for more info.

I still haven't been able to make much out of it in the first place. It appears to me more like a television specific aggregator with a social network. But in terms of the way the site is structured and geared towards revenue generation, atleast the people at the helm are making the right noises and trying to make yet another technology that can go some way in supplanting our dear old Television altogether. (Although I wouldn't particularly like that!)

Here's another article from TechCrunch that might give you more of an informed view of TIOTI than what I've managed to give so far.
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