Boxee, the media center solution that aggregates your content as well as content from across various web and other media services, has raised $4 million in its first round of financing, led by Spark Capital and Union Square Ventures. While the concept of Boxee isn’t entirely new, the fresh stance of near-total media aggregation coupled with multiple social networking interfaces makes Boxee an enticing new product in this growing marketplace.
While other services like TiVo are beginning to incorporate other features from third parties such as Rhapsody, Boxee is starting out with a host of third-party integrated apps, taking the best of breed services and features for a more inclusive experience. Much of this rests on the social capabilities of the third party services and features, which lend to an array of perks on Boxee, including recommendations from your actual friends, reviews from across the web, and auto-updates to your Twitter and FriendFeed accounts.
The strongest influence of this social networking inclusion is of course the recommendation potential, which can act as a direct or indirect feature on Boxee and across the web. As you can see what your friends are currently viewing, have already viewed and reviewed, or recommend directly on Boxee, the need to go to other networks to find reviews and recommendations is eliminated. Other services, like the set top box Vudu, are moving in this direction for recommendations as well, though not as interactive on the social front. So even though Boxee doesn’t yet have a set top box to speak of, it still remains competitive with the likes of Vudu, and can be utilized on your computer or on your HD television. With this round of funding, however, a set top box is in the works.
Yet on the other end of the spectrum, Boxee’s open source stance enables developers to create applications around the Boxee software, and further the media recommendation potential beyond what Boxee already has. As services like Twitter and especially FriendFeed have an increasing potential to become useful recommendation engines, communicating with portals like Boxee also enhance their offerings as well.
Perhaps the social support of third party apps, which can carry Boxee’s influence far beyond the individual viewing experience, will help Boxee steer clear of the fate of those before it, such as Joost. The “revolutionary” viewing experience that Joost initially brought about garnered a great deal of hype, and got enough old media conglomerates excited enough to sign distribution and advertising deals. Yet Joost, despite social networking integration of things like chat, didn’t become a household name.