April 5, 2007 -- Do you watch Justin.TV? If not, you may be wondering what it is. Justin.TV is… Justin Kan's life. The 23-year-old Yale graduate transmits video and sound of his entire life, around the clock, via his Web site, www.justin.tv.
Justin.TV is different things to different people. Some wonder how bored you have to be to sit in front of a computer and watch a total stranger go through an often stunningly boring day on live Internet video.
Others look at Justin.TV and see brilliance -- a bold vision of the future that should have television executives quaking in their boots. The reality is, Justin.TV could be a little of both.
Everything Kan does can be watched live. Everything is fodder for a show. Get up in the morning -- that's a show. Make a sandwich -- that's a show. Clean up after a party -- that's a show.
Along with three friends, Kan began "broadcasting" Justin.TV about two weeks ago out of a cramped San Francisco apartment filled with laptop computers and old pizza boxes.
The Camera Goes Everywhere
Kan wears a camera and microphone attached to a hat and wired to a backpack filled with the electronic guts that keep the video streaming. Some of that technology has been invented by the four 20-somethings to enable Kan to ride city buses, go shopping, even go out on dates without ever losing that live signal from his camera. The camera really does go everywhere -- Kan makes sure to point the camera towards the ceiling when he visits the men's room.
Justin.TV can be interesting -- watching Kan getting kicked out of the Gap while trying to buy socks seems to be a fan favorite.
"Most places are pretty accommodating actually," said Kan. "The camera's not that obtrusive. It's not like having a film crew follow you around. So generally, when I'm just on my own, there aren't any problems."
Watching the webcast can also be deadly dull. Log on to the site, and the chances are pretty good you'll catch a first-person view of Kan sitting in a chair typing on a computer. "I can't be interesting 24/7," he said. "Eight hours of the day I am probably sleeping."
'It's Live and It's Mobile'
So, what makes Kan so special? "You've got to be a special type of guy to strap a camera to your head," said Michael Seibel, the COO of Justin.TV Inc., "especially if you're the first guy to do it."
Part of the fun for the tens of thousands who log on each day may be that it's interactive. You can chat with Justin and even suggest things for him to do.
Another element is that you have a front-row seat to the wild ride of launching Justin.TV. You're right there with him, watching as he and his pals navigate the tech world, hoping to succeed with this strange new venture.
Seibel thinks this genre is part of a bigger picture.
"It's live and it's mobile," he said. "And one day, this is going to be the accepted technology. Right now, we're on the edge of a new technology that's only gonna expand. I think the sky's the limit."
Seibel is one of the four savvy young men behind Justin.TV. They've already garnered the front page of the San Francisco Chronicle, a spot on MTV and various TV news programs around the world. The day "Nightline" visited, a crew from German TV was patiently waiting to shoot its own story.
More 'Justin's' in the Making?
The group says its goal is to create more channels built around different people with cameras. "[If] our viewers tell us that they want another show, honestly it doesn't cost that much for us to give it to them," said Seibel.
Kan just hopes that any new participants will be "better looking and more interesting" than he is.
But the real genius here may be in the workings of Justin.TV. While Kan broadcasts such entertaining moments as brushing his teeth or even sleeping, his fellow creators are crunching code and working on hardware to enable better quality live video streaming over the Web.
The technology may end up being the most valuable part of the project, as a great many big media companies are anxious to put more video on the Web. This isn't lost on the four guys in that filthy apartment as they drum up corporate sponsors and field e-mails they claim are streaming in from major companies.
Will they make it? Tune in, and chances are you may find out the very moment they do.