Talking tech since 2003

In the age of digital content distribution, you can customize and craft your entertainment experiences any which way you prefer. Streaming services like Netflix and Hulu will recommend what you should watch next, and iTunes’ Genius playlists will automatically recommend and aggregate music you might enjoy based on your current library.

Jinni, a new “me too” online search engine that powers search in “Xbox, Comcast/Xfinity, VUDU and More,” is getting into that very market with a flashy new website and accompanying iPad app. It has one ambitious goal: to recommend “the perfect movie or show.”

Similar to how marketplaces like Amazon use an algorithm to determine related products you might be interested in buying, Jinni is a search engine dedicated to television shows and movies. And similar to Hulu and Netflix, Jinni looks deep into your viewing history, finds trends, and pairs that data with an “Entertainment Personality” it constructs for you. From there, it finds the most relevant genres and titles you, by its calculation, will love.

The Jinni engine can be synced with your cable, satellite or IPTV provider to provide a “truly personal TV experience,” meaning it will remind you of when certain shows are airing. Providers like AT&T U-verse, DirecTV, Comcast, Cablevision, Cox, Time Warner, Verizon, and Dish are supported, with “many more” on the horizon.

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What should be the most substantial news for most folks is the newly announced Jinni iPad app, which you can download here for free. It provides the same custom experience you’ll find on the full website, but in a more mobile-centric fashion. Features include building personalized TV listings based on taste, ability to notify you when a show or film is airing, sharing functionality for Facebook, and more.

“In viewing one’s own entertainment personality a user inevitably learns more about their own tastes, “ said Yosi Glick, Co-founder and CEO of Jinni.

“Jinni puts all the elements on display for the user to explore and understand making them more meaningful, as opposed to competitors who keep this information to themselves.”

How Well Does it Work?

In terms of ease of use, searching for content you enjoy through Jinni is straightforward, and just as importantly, very cleanly presented. Genres you search for from the main page are displayed quickly and by the handful, and each can be clicked if you want to learn more.

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In regards to how well it fetches new content, it feels largely predictable in the time I’ve had with it. As a long-time documentary fan, I was a little disappointed at how un-robust the first options chose for me were. Most suggestions were for big-name political documentaries that most documentary-watchers will have already seen: Bowling for Columbine, An Inconvenient Truth, and the like. I’d like Jinni to dig a bit deeper than what can be found in a simply Googled top ten list, but that’s where Jinni’s logging of your Netflix information can come in handy.

And thankfully, it seems to work pretty well. This is the “My Guide” generated for me by Jinni after importing my Netflix, Amazon, Hulu and general genre interests to its database.

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The only issues of note are the suggestions of shows I’m not interested in by any measure: Curious George and Charmed. What’s even less preferrable about Jinni is that it’ll suggest films/shows for platforms that I don’t pay for, like HBO. This can be disabled from within your account, it seems, but it was still suggested for me (likely because it was associating it with my Time Warner Cable subscription, which can support HBO).

But overall, the engine does a recommendable job of surfacing shows and films that might have gone ignored for the rest of your life, and one of them might just be your next favorite. And that’s the really cool proposition that Jinni makes — and largely succeeds in making happen.

Jinni is available starting today on either your web browser or through the Jinni iPad app. If you give it a download, come back and let us know what you think.

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