Hulu Tries (And Fails) To Up The Arms War Against Boxee

from the this-will-end-badly dept

To be honest, we’re still quite confused as to why Hulu’s content partners think it makes sense to stop Boxee from showing Hulu videos. If you don’t know, Boxee is basically a web browser for your television. If you have a computer hooked up to your TV, you can watch Hulu (and other) videos. You could do it via any browser you want — including Firefox or IE — but Boxee is designed to function better for TVs. Yet, for some reason, even though it’s just a browser, Hulu’s content partners freaked out and demanded Boxee stop. Since then, there’s been a bit of a technology back and forth, with Boxee offering workarounds, and Hulu trying to block Boxee’s workaround (which Boxee got around quickly again). The latest, as pointed out by a few readers, is that Hulu is now trying to encrypt its content to keep it from working in non-browser apps. Of course, Boxee on the Mac is just like a browser, so the encryption doesn’t even do anything — and Boxee is planning to upgrade its software on other platforms to do the same thing. Honestly, though, the whole thing seems like a waste. Hulu is dedicating technical resources towards making its content less useful, and trying to stop people from using the content in perfectly reasonable ways. That’s a recipe for failure. Even if the company is only doing this to appease angry content partners, you have to wonder how Hulu can possibly survive while sitting between content providers who want to lock everything down, and users who want to do the opposite.

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Companies: boxee, hulu

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Comments on “Hulu Tries (And Fails) To Up The Arms War Against Boxee”

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44 Comments
dragunkat says:

Honestly, Hulu’s attempts to block boxee seem non-committal at best. So far, each attempt to block has been undercut in under a week, and Hulu takes a while between attempts. The attempts aren’t very complex to begin with, so maybe Hulu is trying to work something out with the content providers, and just isn’t being very noisy about it. That’s just my (pretty optimistic) view.

R. Miles says:

Re: Re:

Honestly, Hulu’s attempts to block boxee seem non-committal at best.
Wrong side of the fence.

Think about Boxee’s customers, who are probably getting frustrated their product isn’t working. Do you believe customers are going to stay with a product which is constantly going down until these changes are adapted?

Hulu techs probably know it’s futile, so they’re taking the next best approach they can: make it difficult on the Boxee techies.

This type of thing happens every day on the web. Developers find a useful website and start writing third party apps only to see content owners get pissed and takes steps to stop it.

Pathetic, really, but that’s business in the United States. Kids are taught to share, but somewhere along the way, usually after being an executive earning a large salary, this lesson is lost.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

But what other alternative do you have to watch Fox/NBC shows? Boxee is one of the highest quality media centers to access online streaming content.

So Boxee users will stay with Boxee, simply because there’s no where else to go (and it does everything else great!). We are frustrated, but not with Boxee (it’s free), just their content providers.

Obviously if another group worked it out, I’d switch. I’m not aware of anything working other than a plugin for Vista’s Media Center. Of course, that would mean I’d have to find a license for Vista, and I’d rather stay with Linux.

Hulu should understand that I still watch hulu on my tv, I just use a wireless mouse rather than a remote. It’s marginally more annoying.

R. Miles says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

That’s the point of the article, noting how its distributors trying to control the market by telling others they can’t share.

Boxee is an idea that’s not of their creation, so it’s a “no-no” in their eyes.

As the article notes, it’s stupid, but it’s common practice today in this country’s obsession with IP control.

I feel for Boxee users who have to endure this crap. And eventually, they will leave, especially if adapting to Hulu changes becomes more difficult to do.

But I’m betting there’s coding going on to make a Boxee-like app just so the distributors can release and control it.

See this happening more often now than ever before.

You would think programmers would take a clue and stand up to this crap and say “You pay writers a royalty. You pay actors a royalty. Now, you can start paying us a royalty.”

Hah! As if that’ll ever happen.

Chronno S. Trigger says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

This assumes that Hulu is the only thing adding value to Boxee. Hulu is just an addon and Boxee has already stood on it’s own. If Boxee gives up on trying to get Hulu to work then chances are Hulu looses viewers instead of Boxee loosing users.

Personally, I would start watching Hulu if someone would make an addon to XBMC for it. Till then, I probably won’t.

Paul G (profile) says:

Is Hulu truly trying?

From a previous statement by a Hulu exec it appeared that he sided with Boxee but was being forced by the content owners to create these dumb restrictions. Could it be that they are just doing the minimum to appease the media idiots while knowing that Boxee will quickly circumvent the action?

I know that if I was a Hulu exec I wouldn’t be going all out to block Boxee. Mind you, I live in he real world.

Ken C says:

The obvious reason

This should be pretty obvious if you think through the whole chain.

Hulu doesn’t care what you watch their content on. The more platforms and people they reach, they better (more eyes on their adverts). What hulu DOES care about is not angering the content providers.

The content providers don’t care about how they reach people, the more the merrier. What they DO care about is not angering the traditional media providers. Because the traditional media providers (cable and satellite) are today essentually a monopoly. They have the content providers by the short and curlies.

The traditional media providers have a HUGE vested interest in keeping TV and computers seperate in consumer’s minds. The LAST thing they want is for consumers to realize that they can get their TV content from the Internet versus their own rather pricey services. For them, things like hulu are ok as long as it is somewhat a toy. One person watching a bit of TV on a small screen. But when it comes to serious TV watching – they want the family in front of the big TV, and they want the content coming from them.

Haywood says:

head in the sand

They should be willing to work with anyone to make any form of legit internet TV viable. It is far to viable to just download torrents and view with a HTPC, and it is my habit. Were it as easy, perhaps even easier, I’d consider HULU, but I played with HULU & it seemed slow, inferior, difficult to navigate, and very limited in selection. Bittorrent is TV for the 21st century.

Trails says:

Lamest Encryption Ever

The encryption hulu is using looks like it’s encoding and byte-shifting. In other words, this is the worlds weakest DRM, distributed along with javascript (i.e. source that is, at most, obfuscated) to circumvent.

To compare it to DVD DRM, DVD DRM includes the decryption key. This includes the key, and software that will apply it for you, using standardized scripting.

This attempt to hide their content shows an epic failure to understand how the web works, as it at worst slows boxee down.

The real question here is who’s failing to understand the web? Hulu, or the content providers? I would guess the latter.

Anyways, this, like any other stringent browser filtering(or DRM scheme, for that matter), is doomed to fail. It’s nice to see the content industry producing new case studies that simplify and highlight the overall stupidity of DRM, though.

Weird Harold (user link) says:

Re: Lamest Encryption Ever

Tecnically and legally speaking – if boxee decodes their “worlds weakest DRM”, they have moved from just providing content to hacking to get it.

Hulu is playing this just right, moving boxee into a position where they not only look bad, but potentially are breaking the law in doing it.

magnafides says:

Re: Re: Lamest Encryption Ever

Not quite.

Hulu is providing their service in the form of a request/response mechanism (web server) on port 80–there is no contract between Hulu and the consumer decreeing that it must be consumed only on specific platforms. Hulu is providing the content (HTML/video data) AND the mechanism to consume that content (the Javascript) all as a response to a simple HTTP request.

Without knowing implementation details, you simply cannot say there is any “hacking” going on, technically OR legally speaking.

magnafides says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Lamest Encryption Ever

Yeah, I’ve figured it out. My first thought was that WH was just Mike trying to create more activity in the comments section.

I still can’t let that theory go, mainly because I can’t believe someone can be so ignorant while maintaining the ability to form complete sentences.

Weird Harold (user link) says:

Re: Re: Re: Lamest Encryption Ever

Not exactly right. Boxee doesn’t require javascript to play normal video streams. Except for interface, they have no requirement for javascript. Further, hulu’s javascript comes as part of a complete webpage, that Boxee does not display. It displays only the video stream. So the process of picking and selecting items to use puts boxee in the position of having to take additional action to decode the stream, otherwise it would not be visible – but they don’t display the entire page.

“simple http request” still leads to a decoding of drm protected content. The law makes no difference between well protected and protected by a shabby, simple system.

Weird Harold (user link) says:

Re: Re: Re: Lamest Encryption Ever

Nope, not drunk – please think for a minute.

if Boxee is going to present the whole page (as a browser) then they should present the whole page. They don’t. They are only a media player. Media players don’t normally need java to play a file format.

Yet, boxee is having to use java to play this file – the file itself alone does not have a codec they support. They first have to decode the file before the file can be played, special processing.

If Boxee was presenting Hulu’s whole page, you might have an argument – but they are only playing the media file, which won’t play without decoding from it’s DRM (crappy one, but DRM).

It isn’t legally a big jump from there to a way to bypass Itunes DRM – after all, it’s just code.

magnafides says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Lamest Encryption Ever

Yawn.

It -IS- a big jump. Bypassing iTunes DRM requires reverse-engineering and custom code. Hulu is itself providing the “decryption” mechanism right along with the video! You really don’t see how this is a vast difference? I can’t fathom that you actually believe the crap that you spout.

Dirk Belligerent (user link) says:

Missing the point

As television networks are bleeding out because audiences are shrinking and advertisers won’t support scripted shows – why should they when “Surviving with the Idol American Stars” draws awesome numbers? – it amazes me that instead of embracing Boxee and Hulu and new means to connect digital content to TVs, they fight to the death to maintain business models created when there were only channels 2, 4, and 7 on the dial.

My girlfriend’s family doesn’t have DVRs and still tapes shows on VHS off standard-def DirecTV. (Ugh, I know. I’m working on it.) At 9pm Thursdays CSI, Supernatural, and 30 Rock are on. We watch Supernatural on OTA HD while she tapes CSI and then I download 30 Rock from BitTorrent, playing it back thru my Xbox 360. Clunky, no?

Now, why the hell aren’t the networks making deals to stream Hulu (or whatver) directly to these game consoles like NetFlix does. Instead of making people muck about with a HTPC or things like Boxee, just pipe it into the Xbox or PS3 that’s already hooked up to the TV. Duh!!! How hard is it to see the obviousness of that?!? It cuts down on “piracy”; allows advertisers to present their commercials in an unskippable format (Hulu’s one 30-second ad per break is quite tolerable as opposed to four minutes of ED adverts); and gives viewers a good experience.

Whoops! It makes too much sense! My bad. Nevermind. As you were, people.

periphera says:

Something about a singer?

I just want to thank anyone involved in trying to block boxee for doing so. It’s very hard for open source products to get good publicity, and this may be their best strategy. I had never heard of boxee until this fight with hulu started, but I assumed they were PC-only. Not so this latest article informs me! So now I’m off to download it.

There really should be a phrase for that…

Jason Baker (user link) says:

Sensationalism

The latest, as pointed out by a few readers, is that Hulu is now trying to encrypt its content to keep it from working in non-browser apps.

Yay sensationalism! Let’s be absolutely clear about one thing: there is absolutely zero encryption happening. I don’t just mean that there’s weak encrytion. All they’re doing is URL encoding the content. URL encoding isn’t, and was never intended to be, an encryption mechanism. In fact, it’s the complete opposite: it’s used because everyone knows how to read it.

Speedo says:

these guys don't get it do they

they sit there and look at all the money and views there content is getting and more views every week on other shows b/c they can see a missed ep quick and easy. then with the money they go out and buy a big huge didlo and stick it up there ass every single time.

THERE FUCKING THEM SELFS IN THE ASSES DOING THIS i started watching 4 or 5 tv shows that i would never have watched if they were my tv (ie change the ch when they started) but i got in to them and now in last few months i have yet to see anything to do with hulu, havn’t visted there web site or watched a single ep, just because there not in boxee now.

utorrent for the mother fucking win

Anonymous for good reason says:

The real reason

The REAL reason for all of this goes right back to media studios, cable cos, and their desire to maintain control of distribution methods.

You see, Hulu convinced the studios that allowing content to be available widely on the web was a good thing, and that long term, their business survival would depend on it.

BUT, as soon as Boxee took Hulu and put it back on a TV, the cable companies considered it competition, and threatened to pull their billion dollar industry out from under the studios.

You see, while some studios are beginning to recognize that the internet is the future and that they need to get a piece of that pie to survive, they are also still immediately dependent on cable providers, since it is still cable that pays their bills. That is the real problem: the near-monopoly that cable co’s have. they are using that leverage to lock-in not only the consumers but the content owners as well.

Long story short, the studios freaked, went back to Hulu and said “no way”. Bye bye Hulu over Boxee.

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