At first, the kerfuffle involving the way startup Boxee used clever software to bring Hulu’s Internet TV service to TV sets was rather gentlemanly. Hulu asked Boxee to remove it, and explained why in a blog post that was almost apologetic–and which pretty much blamed it all on Hollywood content owners. Boxee thoughtfully replied in a post of its own–and complied. Unfortunate, yes, but civil.
And then Boxee cleverly used Hulu’s public RSS to bring back access to Hulu content. This time, there was no socratic dialog or genteel request–Hulu blocked Boxee from accessing its feeds.
I’m still sorting out my feelings here–the contrarian in me still believes in Letting People Make Their Own Damn Mistakes–but there’s no question that Hulu’s actions run contrary to the spirit of RSS feeds (which were designed to let folks access contact from whatever tool they pleased) and are a setback for Internet TV’s migration from the computer onto the TV. Which is a migration that’s inevitable, and a boon for consumers.
So I know who I’m ultimately rooting for here: Boxee and Boxee users (the latter group of which includes…me). Hulu hasn’t addressed this latest twist on its blog, but I hope it does so–it’s a company that’s built up a lot of cred for being surprisingly with-it for an enterprise formed by major media conglomerates, and it would be sad to see it backslide into a mode that’s paranoid, obtuse, and resistant to technological developments that help more people get at the cool things it’s doing.
One way or another, an awful lot of us will be watching Hulu or Hulu-like services on our TVs. Boxee is intrepid and innovative, and I hope it gets the opportunity to play a major role in getting us there…
[UPDATE: Dave Zatz right in the comments when he says this tug of war will be ongoing–Boxee is reporting in its blog that the Hulu feed is working again. For now.]