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The 1995 romantic comedy “Before Sunrise” seems like a peculiar place to tell the tale of the end of a website that began more than a decade after that film. But it is, in fact, the perfect place to begin.

In that movie, American Jesse (Ethan Hawke) meets Frenchwoman Celine (Julie Delpy) on a train and they strike up a conversation that carries through an overnight stay in Vienna. Within their conversation, they discover elements of their personalities, their hopes and aspirations, their foibles and failings, their distinct world views, all with the backdrop of the Austrian capital as their playground, and they do it for each other in front of all of us in the audience.

Early on into the discussion (courtesy of scriptwriter/director Richard Linklater and co-writer Kim Krizan) Jesse states:

Jesse: I have this idea for a show that would last 24 hours a day, for a year, straight. What you do is… you get 365 people from cities all over the world, to do these 24 hour documents of real time. Right? Capturing life as it’s lived. You know, it would start with a guy waking up in the morning, taking the long shower, eating a little breakfast, making a little coffee, reading the paper…

Celine: Wait wait. All those mundane, boring things everybody has to do every day of their fucking life?

And yet, it became real! In 2007, Justin.tv was created by a guy named Justin Kan, a man who was the life of the party, and who wanted to take the party to the world. He was one of the first “lifecasters,” people that put everything that happened to them on camera, and with a laptop and a broadband connection and a webcam attached to his ball cap, even went into the streets and showed his travels remotely, all fully live… and he did it for a year.

Eventually, others followed suit, and people became “celebrities” from it: Justine Ezarik, aka “iJustine” was an early caster on Justin.tv. Internet reporter and reality television star Sarah Austin was an early JTVer too.

Additionally, already established stars used JTV as an outlet to promote, connect with fans and have fun. Joe Rogan, then the host of NBC’s stunt game show “Fear Factor” cast regularly in the early years of the site. The Jonas Brothers and American Idol stars Kimberly Caldwell and Kimberley Locke each had their own channels on the site at one point.

But JTV was really more about the “regular” people that cast, and there was a long list of longtime casters, who would eat their meals, occasionally “put shoe on head” and yes, even sleep on cam. But, it was ultimately about connecting with people, showing viewers a little bit of your world, and maybe making friends with someone you might never actually meet face to face that was the attraction.

Personally, I have only met two JTV casters in person, with one of them, Justin Kan himself. I met him when I traveled to San Francisco in August, 2008 and dropped in on the JTV “offices.” It was a non-descript façade on a non-descript alley that even the local bus drivers knew nothing about, located just a Bengie Molina foul ball away from AT&T Park. I wandered into the front door of the structure to see staffers receiving a set of large HDTVs that they were going to place in their space.

Mr. Kan was very gregarious and peppered me with questions: how did I like the site? What elements did I think were good and not so good? He wanted to know what I thought, which really is what any owner should want to know from the people that use their product. He gave me a quick tour around and went back to work.

I was impressed at how interested he genuinely seemed to be about my opinions, and felt like he really was someone who cared about the people using the site.

But that was almost six years ago. With the explosion of video casting, including other sites like Ustream, YouTube and vaughnlive.tv (created by Mark Vaughn, a former employee of Justin.tv who left the company because of a dispute), JTV became less unique. Also, as is typical of social media sites that try to become profit making ventures, rules changed, certain people got banned for their casts. And most problematic, copyright infringement lawsuits were brought because of third party casting of films, television shows and sporting events.

What eventually happened was Twitch.tv, a sister website created specifically to show people playing video games, became a success, and it dwarfed JTV’s contributions to its parent company’s coffers.

This year, three red flags occurred. The first was that Justin.tv went from being run by Justin.tv, Inc. to Twitch Interactive, proof that the newer website had outgrown its parent.

Second, JTV stopped having “community chats,” a regular weekly cast when a couple of the JTV staffers would talk to the users to explain what was happening around the site.

But most alarming was that JTV suddenly dumped the entire archive of broadcasts for every channel, globally, just a few weeks ago. Thousands of hours of video, unceremoniously deleted, with no way to back it up for those that made it.

Finally, on the random date of Tuesday, August 5, 2014, Justin.tv slammed its doors shut, without any warning of any kind. No more logging in to your own account. No more networking with people from the site and certainly no more casting.

While I understand the concept of business, this clearly was a thoughtless and selfish move on the part of the JTV staffers. Clearly they knew that the site shutdown was imminent as they were preparing for it. Yet they didn’t even hint the end was near, not even to their long time casters or paid users, the people who helped them get to a position to have a successful venture with Twitch.

Being a “social” media site, you would think that the people running it would understand the social implications of ending it all like this. Sadly, it seems that when you turn corporate, those elements become unimportant. Apparently, such was the case here, as they effectively prevented anyone from salvaging anything of their years of casting on the site or even having one final goodbye to their viewers.

Just like Jesse and Celine’s night in Vienna, it ended all too quickly and too bitterly. But, those of us that used Justin.tv have the memories of what occurred as we have been scattered back to our own lives in our own parts of the globe. Maybe, if we’re as lucky as those two, we’ll meet again.


This thinkpost was created for LJ Idol, using the prompt "Scare quotes"


( 35 comments — Leave a comment )
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Aug. 9th, 2014 04:15 am (UTC)
It reminds me of the unceremonious end of Television Without Pity. Originally NBC was going to shut the whole thing down, but they relented and left the recaps up, but the forums are gone forever.
Aug. 9th, 2014 05:10 am (UTC)
The difference, I think, is that people were televising their own lives. This was so much more personal!

Justin.tv left nothing. All the personal accounts for the site were deleted in one quick maneuver.

Jumptheshark.com - a website I worked for before Jon Hein sold it to TV Guide, went similarly... some brilliant and hilarious content written by people who were commenting about various shows, gave Hein a seven figure payday, but TVG went on to dismantle the whole thing for no other reason than they had no idea what to do with it!

For these internet entrepreneurs, hen money enters the picture, it seems everything else vanishes.
(no subject) - mallorys_camera - Aug. 13th, 2014 03:36 pm (UTC) - Expand
Aug. 9th, 2014 01:54 pm (UTC)
Interesting post. I learned new stuff. AW
Aug. 9th, 2014 03:52 pm (UTC)
Thanks, and I'm glad it engaged you!
Aug. 9th, 2014 06:04 pm (UTC)
It's incredible that they left you all with absolutely 0 warning. I think I would have up and left if they deleted everything, but the loss of any and all of my videos... yeah. I can see how this would just hurt that much worse.
Aug. 9th, 2014 07:49 pm (UTC)
The only thing that seems clear is that they just wanted to end the justin.tv era and whatever issues or lawsuits came with it, and anyone's feelings that might have been hurt in the process were just collateral damage. They did offer to migrate anyone's account over to twitch.tv without any problem!

Thanks for reading and commiserating.
Aug. 11th, 2014 11:07 am (UTC)
...Twitch.tv, a sister website created specifically to show people playing video games...

That does not sound interesting. Justin.tv, however, could be amazing. A bit of a slog to get through, but really fascinating from an anthropological point of view.

This is the first time I've ever heard of it, by the way, so it's got my head spinning.
Aug. 12th, 2014 10:51 pm (UTC)
Watching someone playing a video game, if they're really good at it, can be fun. Though it's always more fun to play than to watch. But there's no guarantee that someone on this site is actually going to be any good!

And just for the record, I think twitch is getting some promotional funding from games manufacturers, which is helping drive them.

It seems like many disgruntled former JTV users are joining that vaughnlive.tv site - he, himself a disgruntled former JTV user!

I suspect, however, the whole video chat concept has peaked... in a way, it has mirrored the blogging craze... as it is also sometimes called "vlogging" or video blogging! Maybe that should be TMI!
Aug. 11th, 2014 12:28 pm (UTC)
New information and so very interestingly conveyed ..... A big thank u is in order. You have managed to use the prompt very well too. Its sad when a good thing ends ... but who knows since there are all of yoi scattered all over the globe ... maybe 'the end' wasnt the end after all ... who is to say ....

Well Done ...
Aug. 12th, 2014 10:54 pm (UTC)
Thanks very much!

I think some people are signing up for the vaughn option, but not everyone wants to do that. I suspect things will continue, with some changes, and maybe it's time for some of us to retire from that scene!

But yeah, it's really just that they could have handled the ending much better than they did.
Aug. 11th, 2014 04:06 pm (UTC)
i didn't know any of this stuff! so this was fascinating. very rude of jtv to shut down with no warning, tho.
Aug. 12th, 2014 10:56 pm (UTC)
I'm glad you liked the piece! It's really strange to me that people who are in the business of social media can be so lacking in dealing with their own users, which really is what prompted me to write this.

Thanks for reading it and commenting!
Aug. 11th, 2014 10:49 pm (UTC)
The way JTV shut down seemed rather sad, to me. This was a very interesting entry.
Aug. 12th, 2014 10:58 pm (UTC)
It certainly wasn't the first website to close so abruptly and won't be the last, but it was pretty clear that they knew they were about to shut down, and just did it when they could have made any other choice that would have been better!

Thanks for reading and for your comment.
Aug. 12th, 2014 12:02 am (UTC)
It sounds as if the original JTV (when it was Justin.tv) really had a heavy social component to it, which got lost.

I hate it when something gives rise to a new form or trend, and the success results in the original thing being killed off. Especially for the participants who helped make it all successful, who didn't even merit common decency in having their labors destroyed. :(
Aug. 12th, 2014 11:07 pm (UTC)
As is typically the case (see also brad from LiveJournal), when an internet entrepreneur sees the opportunity to make a lot of money from (nearly always) *his* creation, the elements of why things were they way they were gets lost in a big money opportunity. I don't know if you were around during the sale of LJ to SixApart, but that was definitely a worrisome case of people trying to shoehorn advertising into an already existing site, and people panicking that they needed to salvage their journals. At least LJ remained intact! However, VOX, 6A's attempt to lure LJ users to that blog site, was dismantled.

But this is the underlying issue: the fact that the users are the people who made the site work, both as far as content provided and traffic, getting people to go there to watch. They never share in the profits!

Thanks for reading and for a thoughtful comment.
Aug. 12th, 2014 06:52 am (UTC)
This was pretty interesting...nice to know about it... pretty cool concept actually...sad to know it was shutdown..:/
Aug. 12th, 2014 11:08 pm (UTC)
There definitely are more sites like this one, but, just like LiveJournal is to blogging, the rest of them are second best! Thanks for reading and commenting!
Aug. 12th, 2014 04:39 pm (UTC)
Wow, that's really fascinating - I've never heard about JTV before! Cool. :)
Aug. 12th, 2014 11:11 pm (UTC)
It was an interesting few years, for sure. And I even cast several times (guys typically didn't get many viewers, and I think I got perhaps 4000 views in my time there)!

I suspect the legend of JTV will change and grow throughout all time! Or, maybe it'll just be forgotten. Probably that! Thanks as always for the read!
Aug. 12th, 2014 07:01 pm (UTC)
The social media machine is a strange beast with stranger progeny. I firmly believe that the people who actively watch twitch.tv now spend more time ogling games being played by other people than they do actually playing those games themselves.

I do not expect for it to be around very long in that format either. It seems like the uninformed and the unconnected have the best chance of maintaining their digital information and their identities.

An interesting "life and death" assessment of a website. Must be frustrating to be involved and then have the whole system yanked out from under you.
Aug. 14th, 2014 01:20 pm (UTC)
It's an interesting thought... twitch is promoting games but to what end? If people just watch twitch and don't buy the games, it's going to hurt the vid game industry. Or, not hurt it as much as not helping it.

As for JTV, it was a regular stop on my internet rounds. And I did get to make some friends over the years, and thankfully, I'm in touch with them via other social media. Haven't convinced any of them to open a LiveJournal tho...

thanks for reading and your cogent comment.
Aug. 12th, 2014 11:33 pm (UTC)
Interesting, it is sad that they shut everything down without any notice.
Aug. 14th, 2014 12:51 pm (UTC)
I'm sure the quit shutdown was to eliminate issues with copyright... there were people who did nothing but cast Simpsons episodes or show soccer matches from around the globe. With the instant shutdown, it all got to go away fast.

Thanks for reading!!
Aug. 13th, 2014 03:38 pm (UTC)
Interesting! The world's first blogger was also a Justin -- Justin Hall. :-)
Aug. 14th, 2014 12:52 pm (UTC)
I wasn't aware of that, but that's pretty coincidental! Thanks for the read, and the trivia!
Aug. 13th, 2014 04:59 pm (UTC)
I learned a lot from this post. I wonder if something happened at/to JTV that forced it to close so precipitously and callously? Otherwise, just more business indifference. I also have trouble finding a website devoted to watching people play games interesting, but to each his/her own.
Aug. 14th, 2014 01:03 pm (UTC)
When they first announced twitch.tv, I understood why they were doing it, but I didn't think it was going to be a bigger money maker than justin.tv. The difference was the game companies wanted to promote their stuff, so instant cash flow.

JTV was a money suck with the few users that were paid subscribers and all of the people showing copyrighted material. Still, it felt like a personal slap to not state a closing date and just shut it down.

Watching a game *could* be both fun and useful for gamers - as far as getting cheats and tips, to preview what the game is like and to get an idea of how it plays, but unless you're really into gaming, definitely not that interesting.

Thanks for reading and commenting!
Aug. 14th, 2014 12:46 am (UTC)
I always think back stories are fascinating.
Aug. 14th, 2014 01:03 pm (UTC)
Thanks very much.
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