A thought on 10 foot browser interfaces


I was just checking out Amazon Video, and I absolutely love it. Like Hulu, it works without any problems on my Ubuntu box because it doesn't require any special software to download besides Flash, which Linux has. (Thank you wonderful people at Adobe! I will finally forgive you for the Sklyarov thing.)

Years ago when I was at Yahoo!, I worked down the hall from their media lab, where they were working with some cable companies to create a "10 Foot Interface" for the Internet. That's the distance from your couch to the TV, if you don't know what I'm talking about. They had a whole office decked out as a mini-living room as a test center, and *really* comfortable meeting place.

What's surprising to me, however, is that it seems people aren't waiting for a common 10 foot interface to arrive, and are just simply using their big LCD monitor as their TV, or plugging their laptop into their TV, browsing the web for the video they want, clicking full-screen and then watching. College students today don't bother much with a TV and DVD player in their dorm room - why? They have their laptops or computer screens. And apparently, many of the rest of us do the same. But we can't all be watching old episodes of Heroes on Hulu on our laptops while sitting at our desks, are we?

I have an old computer just plugged into my TV and we watch all the DVDs or downloaded videos on that. I've pretty much given up on any of the various Media Center apps out there, and there's a ton. Why? Because none really understand the web much, and there's more and more content that's available via a web browser. So I just use a infrared bluetooth mouse on my lap navigate around the desktop UI on my TV from my couch. I've bumped up the size of the fonts, so in general, it works pretty well, but it can be painful sometimes if the web interface is made to be rendered only with smaller sizes.

Here's the thought, you know how more and more sites out there are adopting a m.* mobile version, tailored for smaller screens? Why don't the video sites out there start adopting tv.* versions of their interfaces, tailored to people using the site from their couch? And there could be browser-extensions you could download to modify your User-Agent to notify those sites that you were, in fact, viewing the site from far away, so they could adjust automagically. Finally, this seems like a great opportunity for someone to create a proxy that did something similar to what I did with Mowser - dynamically adapting popular video web-sites interfaces for TV viewing (the flash players wouldn't need any tweaking I don't think).

We've already seen a little of this with the popularity of watching video with the Wii browser - some sites dynamically adapted to a 10 foot interface, like StumbleUpon Video - but I'm thinking about a more generic solution for all the PCs out there being used in the same way. If there was *any* sort of standard around this stuff, then the big cable companies might even be willing to put web browsers with Flash right in the set top boxes themselves, and then there'd be a whole new version of the web out there to tap into.

Just a thought.


Update: Daniel Gerges just pointed out that Free.fr, a French ISP, has been promoting "Telesites", which is pretty similar to what I was thinking of. I don't read French, so I can't find much info about it, but I found their homepage here. It seems like they're kinda promoting special TV-formatting for all sites, but I think the first ones should definitely be all the video sites out there: YouTube, Vimeo, Hulu, etc.

Actually, just thinking about it - I'm pretty sure that Microsoft Media Center "plugins" are all just websites as well, it's too bad they don't make them more public for general use.


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