Media Lifeline: Joost founders

Janus Friis and Niklas Zennstrom move a step closer to world domination.

1996: Janus Friis joins the Danish telecoms operator Tele2, where he soon forms a close working relationship with Niklas Zennstrom, an established manager ten years his senior. Soon to tag themselves "disruptive internet entrepreneurs", while still at Tele2, they launch the European internet service provider get2net and the portal.

2001: Zennstrom and Friis kick off the second generation of peer-to-peer file sharing sites with Kazaa. It uses peer-to-peer protocols that, they hope, will render it immune from prosecution - but it is soon facing lawsuits. They sell Kazaa to an Australian company incorporated in Vanuatu.

2003: The dynamic duo moves on to launch Skype, an internet telephony service. This is not a new idea - existing services include SIP and IAX - but Skype is the first to use the peer-to-peer approach pioneered on Kazaa. It takes just over a year to acquire its first million users. By the end of 2005, it has more than four million users.

2005: The online auction company eBay buys Skype for $2.6 billion, with Zennstrom and Friis agreeing to stay on in management roles. Internet telephony is a burgeoning business - and eBay says its acquisition is a response to the growing presence of Google, Microsoft, AOL and Yahoo! in this sector.

2007: Zennstrom and Friis, who have been testing an online TV service for months, decide it's time to launch. The service, which they claim will be the first global TV distribution platform, is to be called Joost. It will offer a full-screen TV service combined with community-based content.

Fast forward ...

2010: With Joost having survived wave after wave of legal threats from programme-makers, angry that their copyright is being violated, Microsoft moves to acquire the brand, now a highly successful Vanuatu-based operation. Bill Gates now nominates Zennstrom and Friis as joint successors at the helm of the world's dominant media owner and software supplier.


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