Jinni, which has been in private beta, has now gone into public beta. The founders like to refer to the site as a "taste engine," which is a cute way of calling itself a content discovery system (which is itself a fancy way of saying it wants to help you find videos online). The target audience for the service is the content seeker who is ready to watch, rent, or buy right now.
What's unique about the Jinni service — aside from the intentional misspelling of "genie”— is how you search. Instead of using topical keywords and phrases ("action movie”, for instance), Jinni is set up for searching by mood words like "disturbing," "creepy," or "clever.” The site will still return results for traditional video searches based on topic or title as well.
The interface is visual, and sort of resembles a cloud tag, with the most popular results getting the larger thumbnails. Hovering over one of the images gives the user a bit more data on the title. Clicking it takes you to Jinni's page for that piece of content, including a plot summary, running time, and rating. There's also a sidebar filled with Jinni-search-related information, such as what mood or plot searches the title is a match for.
Assuming you like what you see on that screen, you'll click the red "Watch It" link at the top, which then displays a list of links for that title. The links returned by a Jinni search are sending you to the usual suspects for TV and movie content. If you want to watch it free, and it's available, Jinni might have a link to Hulu's presentation of the film. If you're looking to rent it on DVD, they'll send you to Netflix. Want to just buy it? No worries… they'll provide links for that as well—including both links for DVD purchase and for download.
You can even merge your Jinni account with your Netflix account, to further streamline the process of getting the content in your hands.
In addition to the core service, there is also a registration/membership portion of the site, which will allow the service to return even better mood-search matches based on your past searches. Jinni wants to map your "entertainment personality.” There's a voting and social aspect, wherein you can see how your favorites match up to the tastes of other users, and even discover new content based on shared tastes.
As with any service, the proof will be in the success and accuracy of the results delivered. If Jinni can deliver the kind of content users are seeking, they just might have a shot. Even though I wouldn't have guessed that I was part of their target audience, after giving the service a test drive I can see all sorts of possible solutions for my daily video-watching needs.
Of course, the vast majority of content seekers are still taking one of two paths: either they go straight to the supplier they already trust (meaning they just go to Hulu.com and search there) or they simply start with Google and go from those results. Time will tell if a video content discovery engine like Jinni can catch on with the masses. If Pandora is any guide, my gut says there's plenty of market out there for a service like this.