By Harry McCracken | Thursday, March 17, 2011 at 12:42 am
On Wednesday, Jared wrote about Zediva, a new movie-streaming service that offers new releases for cheap–by streaming them onto the Internet from banks of DVD players, without the permission or cooperation of the companies that own the content. He was worried it could turn out to be “another workaround that doesn’t quite work.”
Bingo! Or at least that’s the way it looks at the moment. The site went down, due to technical glitches that the company’s Twitter feed appears to blame at least in part on a mention on the Yahoo home page. (Being reviewed–pretty favorably–by David Pogue in his New York Times column probably didn’t help, either.) Then it came back up, but with a note explaining that the best prospective new members could do was to join a waitlist.
Now, some of my favorite Web sites and services have been crushed by unexpected demand upon launch. It’s practically a rite of passage. (Many come back up swiftly, and work just fine from then on–which always leaves me wondering, why couldn’t their proprietors provide sufficient infrastructure in the first place?) So it’s possible that Zediva will bounce back.
But you gotta wonder. The Twitter feed says that the service received a hundred times the views that the Zediva folks anticipated. If their expectations were so wildly off, how are they going to deal with the demand if the service is a hit? (If they get to be just five percent as popular as Netflix, they’ll have a million customers to deal with.) Isn’t the whole concept ludicrously unscalable? It’s a goofy scheme that strikes me as being only a half-notch or so more serious the one in Be Kind Rewind, the movie in which Jack Black and Mos Def accidentally destroy a store’s worth of VHS tapes and try to recreate all the films as home movies.
When I first heard of Zediva, I wondered how long it would take for the MPAA to sue it into extinction. Now I’m wondering if it might implode before the lawyers have a chance to go to work.