Can You Stream It? This Site Answers the Question

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The recent hubbub around Netflix's price increases shone a light on one very important limitation: The library of movies available online to stream, from any given online vendor, varies widely. What's available on Amazon's Instant Video may not be available on Netflix, and vice versa, regardless of whether it's a recent blockbuster movie or an old classic.

Even if one can find a movie online, the ways to access that movie may also vary widely: Some are available as part of a subscription, others via one-off rentals, and still others as purchase-only transactions.

That two-pronged problem—limited libraries and the rental versus buying—presents a broad search engine opportunity. Google hasn't really cracked this opportunity, due perhaps to the fact that they've been building YouTube.com as a place to view many of these movies, but the opportunity appears to have attracted new search engine participants.

One of those companies is called CanIStream.It? CanIStream.it is a side product of a digital media development firm, Urban Pixels, that started as a "wouldn't it be nice if…" project and has turned into a tool that a number of people find invaluable.

The concept is surprisingly simple: Go to canistream.it and enter in the name of the movie. Results are based on three online categories: instant streaming, online rental, and digital purchase (download).

Can I Stream It

For instant streaming (subscription-based viewing of a limited library), the site covers Amazon, Hulu, and Netflix. For online streaming rentals or digital purchases, it searches Amazon, iTunes, and Vudu, the latter being Wal-Mart's proprietary online streaming rental solution.

What about movies that aren't available online, either because of recent release (the 28-day-window advantage that Blockbuster holds) or continuing popularity? There are two ways that canistream.it handles this: reminder and offline purchase.

The reminder system is very simple: If a movie's not available online, create a user account and enter an email address to be reminded when the movie is available in one of the three online options.

Note that the reminder system differentiates between types of reminders: if you choose to be reminded of streaming rentals, it won't necessarily provide a reminder if Netflix suddenly offers Sixteen Candles as part of its instant streaming (subscription) service.

The second option is an offline (DVD) purchase, which is canistream.it's fourth search results area. Some movies aren't available in any form online, so canistream.it offers a way to buy DVDs from Amazon. 

Canistream.it also provides access to the Internet Movie Database and RottenTomatoes for movie information and analysis/critics' scores for a wide variety of movies.

Canistream.it has set up a list of upcoming features, and has already crossed one off its list: provide Vudu results. The site intends to add Blockbuster results, which could be tricky based on the splintered set of Blockbuster options from stores to Total Access to Movie Pass to Blockbuster Express.

Additional upcoming features include the creation of mobile apps for iPhone, iPad, and Android devices; the ability to search TV programs; and the creation of an application for Google Chrome.

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