I doubt anyone has actually forgotten about Hulu, but it may be worth looking back over the mixed history it has had so far as it has now finally launched with a private beta.
It is the joint venture between News Corp. and NBC Universal that was announced in March, unnamed until the end of August, and delayed from a September private beta launch until now, the end of October.
As expected, the online video service launched today to a limited crowd of private beta testers, and dare I say it actually looks promising.
Hope Over Hype?
Ok… So I haven’t actually tested the service or even received my invite yet, but to see screen shots and information about the service itself and not the company is enough to give me hope for this long-hyped video portal.
Now when accessing the Hulu home page, visitors will find a new logo and a redesigned page with login access for those who have already been invited.
“Hulu offers current primetime shows like The Office, Prison Break, Bionic Woman, House and Bones, and episodes from TV classics like Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Miami Vice, Arrested Development and more.
We’ve also partnered with premier content owners like E! Entertainment, FUEL TV, SciFi Network and USA Networks to add to our growing collection of premium programming.”
“Starting today, we are sending out invitations which will allow users to access the private beta at Hulu.com. If you haven’t signed up, you can do so by visiting Hulu.com.
As showcased on the latest Hulu blog entry, the videos from Hulu are embeddable within other sites, and the service has already amassed a crew of partner sites ( AOL, Comcast, MSN, MySpace and Yahoo), each with its own customized video player, where visitors can view the same programming available from Hulu.
Judging from the early screen shots released, the interface is very simple and well-designed. In the ‘Browse Titles’ section, the shows are displayed in a paginated, grid format (complete with thumbnails) that allows for easy browsing.
The video viewing interface continues the focus on simplicity, containing icons beside the video for useful features such as full screen video, embed code, share links (for sharing the entire video or just one scene), and feedback (for users to express thoughts/ideas to the developers).
Users can also pop out the video player into its own windows to be resized and placed anywhere on the screen. Most interesting though, is the ‘Lower Lights’ features that allows you to “dim the lights and mute the rest of the browser window so nothing distracts you from the video you’re watching.”
Competition For Joost
With its programming selection, Hulu is more competition for Joost than YouTube, and, judging from what I have seen so far (without hands-on testing), it looks much better than the bloated and slow-loading GUI in the Joost program.
Also, I would much rather be able to view programming in a web browser than have to download yet another software application onto my PC as Joost and VeohTV require.
For those who signed up for an invite into the beta and have yet to receive one, Hulu has stated, “not everyone will receive an invitation to the private beta today, but we will be ramping up the number of invitations to the private beta each week.”
I am not the only person to find myself in awe over what has finally been released from this joint project, as Kara Swisher has also found herself eating her words. Perhaps Hulu may have been worth the wait after all, although it should have been released publicly rather than as a private beta.
Michael Garrett is a contributing author discussing the social networking world, his work can be found on Profy.com
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