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What is Hulu?
Founded in March 2007, Hulu is a free and legal online video service that offers thousands of movies, television shows, and other video clips for viewing at the web site hulu.com. After an extensive beta testing period which began in October 2007, Hulu finally made its public launch on March 12, 2008. Although all of the free videos are housed and viewed at Hulu’s web site, you’ll need to make sure that your system meets the following technical requirements in order to properly access Hulu’s content.
- Internet Explorer 6.0 or above, Firefox 1.5 or above, or Safari 2.0 or above
- Adobe Flash Player 9.0 or above
- Microsoft Windows XP with SP2 or above installed, Microsoft Windows Vista, Macintosh OS X, or Linux
- Internet connection with sufficient speed and bandwidth
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The Positive Features of Hulu’s Free Video Service
One of the great advantages of Hulu is the ease at which users can browse and find their favorite content. Although most every site that offers free online TV viewing has some type of search option, a lot of these aren’t much help unless you know the exact show you want to watch. Hulu, on the other hand, gives users the opportunity to browse their video library by channel or topic, most popular content, or recently added selections.
In addition to its vast and ever-increasing library, Hulu offers several other features that mark it as one of the best sites for free online TV viewing. One of these features is the ability to subscribe to your favorite television show. This option allows you to mark as many TV series for subscription as you like. When a new episode is added from that series to the Hulu library, it will immediately be placed in your personal viewing queue. You can further personalize this queue to send you email notifications whenever new entries arrive. This lets you know right away when a show you’ve been waiting for is available to watch.
Another feature that sets Hulu apart is its commitment to providing closed-captioning coverage whenever possible. While only a percentage of Hulu’s current video library comes equipped with this option, more selections of this type are added on a regular basis.
Hulu also does a great job of listening to its users. If there is content that you’d like to see that’s not presently available on Hulu, you can send a special request to the acquisition team. While they don’t make promises, they do make it clear that they realize it is in their own best interests to provide viewers with the content they’re looking for so they are pretty diligent about following up with these requests.
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The Downsides of Hulu
Because of the efforts made by Hulu to ensure that the rights for all of its content have been properly cleared, the service is only available in the United States at the present time. On the web site, Hulu does state that their team is working on a global solution, but there is no indication of how long this process may take.
Due to special licensing arrangements, not all content added to Hulu’s video library remains permanently on the site. Because of this, you can’t be guaranteed the luxury of waiting to watch a new television episode once you notice that it’s available on Hulu.
If there’s a particular episode that you’re waiting for, your best bet is to subscribe to the television series and watch your email closely for the episode to become available. Once the show is available, try to watch it as soon as possible to avoid possible expiration dates.
This is another matter that Hulu claims to be working on, but they are clearly limited by the television and movie industries here. At the current time, Hulu’s philosophy seems to be that it’s better to offer the video for a short time than not to offer it all. When you look at the issue that way, it’s hard to argue that point.
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Most of the negatives associated with Hulu are things related to aspects of the industry rather than the web site itself. As for the issues that Hulu does have control over, improvement continues to be made on a regular basis, and these advancements are clearly visible if you’re a regular visitor to the site.
The positive features of Hulu far outweigh these negative issues, especially when you consider that the online video service is free. The entire web site has a polished, professional look and feel that rivals many paid services of the same nature. In fact, I would take the Hulu interface over that of Netflix any day of the week even if Netflix didn’t have a monthly subscription fee.
So, while there is still some room for improvement, I’m pretty sold on Hulu and its business plan. I’ll rate it a 4 out of 5 today, but I plan on checking back in a few months with an updated review. If Hulu keeps progressing at its current pace, don’t be surprised if gets a perfect rating then.