Monday, January 24, 2011

Fear and Loathing in Online Video: The Codec Conundrum Continues

My last post described, what Google's decision to drop H.264 from Chrome in favor of its own WebM format means for online video publishers, and concluded that this situation creates even more complexity video publishers, along with the potential of a massive increase in video publishing costs. It's been over a week now since Google made that announcement and commentary across the web all led to a similar conclusion – that Flash video is the winner in this latest codec conundrum, and now the safest bet for online video publishers producing video for the web.

Many have both lauded and lambasted Google's decision while many others have shrugged it off as not being a really a big deal.

Regardless of the debate around "open" and "closed" standards and patents or codecs and containers – the net result of Google's decision affects the entire ecosystem of video content creators, publishers, developers and advertisers and has created an atmosphere of fear and loathing in online video.

Google replies to criticism 

Google defended its decision in follow up post on the Chromium Blog: More about the Chrome HTML Video Codec Change, where Google Product Manager Mike Jazayeri addressed some of the key questions.

Regarding Google's decision to support WebM for HTML (video) tag, Jazayeri provided the following explanation:

"We believe there is great promise in the (video) tag and want to see it succeed. As it stands, the organizations involved in defining the HTML video standard are at an impasse. There is no agreement on which video codec should be the baseline standard. Firefox and Opera support the open WebM and Ogg Theora codecs and will not support H.264 due to its licensing requirements; Safari and IE9 support H.264. With this status quo, all publishers and developers using the (video) tag will be forced to support multiple formats.
This is not an ideal situation and we want to see a viable baseline codec that all browsers can support. It is clear that there will not be agreement to specify H.264 as the baseline codec in the HTML video standard due to its licensing requirements. Furthermore, we genuinely believe that core web technologies need to be open and community developed to enable the same great innovation that has brought the web to where it is today. These facts led us to join the efforts of the web community and invest in an open alternative, WebM."
Jazayeri admitted that H.264 has broader support in the publisher, developer, and hardware community today but due to its licensing requirements and patent royalties, which could potentially increase over time, it could not back it as the baseline in the HTML video standard. He reiterated Google's vision to create "open innovation" for video on the web, and that its significant investment in making WebM an open platform for development was proof of that.

But Google was not abandoning H.264 altogether, Jazayeri said, and pointed out that the majority of H.264 videos on the web are viewed in plug-ins such as Flash and Silverlight, and H.264 will continue to be supported in Chrome through a plug-in as well. He admitted that this decision will force publishers to create multiple versions of their videos, but argued that it was already the case since Firefox and Opera never supported H.264 in the HTML (video) tag.

Additionally, Google is already doing with YouTube videos and with the proliferation of mobile devices, platforms, and connectivity types across the web, he added that most content providers already produce multiple versions of their videos. Google is confident that WebM will emerge as a viable and compelling solution for publishers and the WebM Project team will soon release plugins that enable WebM support in Safari and IE9 via the HTML standard (video) tag.

Jazayeri's final point acknowledged the elephant in the room:
"Bottom line, we are at an impasse in the evolution of HTML video. Having no baseline codec in the HTML specification is far from ideal. This is why we're joining others in the community to invest in WebM and encouraging every browser vendor to adopt it for the emerging HTML video platform. Our choice was to make a decision today and invest in open technology to move the platform forward, or to accept the status quo of a fragmented platform where the pace of innovation may be clouded by the interests of those collecting royalties. Seen in this light, we are choosing to bet on the open web and are confident this decision will spur innovation that benefits users and the industry."

Fear, loathing and confusion

Jazayeri's post generated over 240 comments which spoke to the clear division within the business and developer communities, with many who have spoken out against Google's principles of "open" calling it inconsistent and hypocritical, including:
While on the other side of the argument, others have come out in defense of Google's decision:
But some have gone into great detail to provide unbiased analysis of the situation:

The video industry responds

Many voices within online video industry have spoken up as well, mainly to educate consumers and publishers. Brightcove launched its Jumpstart Your Online Video Strategy for 2011 webinar series and Sorenson Media's David Dudas provided, A Simple Explanation Of The Huge WebM Versus H.264 Debate in a recent article on Business Insider.

Dudas offered the following analogy:
"You can think of the H.264 and WebM video formats as modern day VHS and Betamax tapes, and think of the Web browsers on iOS and Android devices as the respective tape decks  (left as an exercise for the reader to determine which is which). Imagine coming home from the video store with your favorite new move on VHS tape and trying to cram it into a Betamax deck. Wouldn't exactly work, would it? Well, that's the same experience consumers will have in the near future as they try to watch H.264 video on Chrome-powered devices, or WebM video on Safari-powered devices. The format wars are alive and well my friends.
So what does this mean to you, the business person who depends on online video as a core part of your business? Quite frankly, it means you're on the hook to ensure cross-device compatibility for all your video content."
Dudas offered a few real world examples of publishing video to Hulu and Netflix to describe the complexity that content publishers face to get their videos to "just work" on each of the platforms. Hulu provides a rich viewer experience on the web, but it doesn't work on the iPad. In contrast to Netflix, which works on almost any device.

But making it "just work" isn't easy, as Dudas said:
"The complexities of device compatibility go far beyond the H.264 vs. WebM debate: each device supports different frame sizes, data rates, codec profiles, adaptive streaming protocols, digital rights management frameworks, and so on. The encoding phase of content production - and, to a lesser extent, the delivery - is where all of these things are either done right or done wrong. Doing it wrong means your encoded content may not play back, or - if it does play back - it may look absolutely terrible. We're not sure which is worse. On the other hand, doing it right means your customers will be delighted rather than frustrated, captive rather than fleeting, which translates to more time and money spent with your business."
On ProVideo, Allan Tépper said that Google has thrown a monkey wrench into video distribution and complicated video producer's workflow, and echoed Dudas' advice:
"What does this mean for us content producers? The goal of any intelligent content producer is to create material which is visible on all popular computers, mobile devices, set top boxes & HDTV sets with onboard streaming, including Apple’s iOS (AppleTV, iPad/iPhone/iPod Touch) and Google’s Android phones, tablets (including most non-Apple ones), and GoogleTV. Unless Google relents (which I hope but do not expect to happen), content producers who want to offer a universally accepted, seamless experience on the mentioned devices will be now need to encode web video in at least two video códecs (i.e. H.264 and WebM or Theora) with the required web code to auto-negotiate among raw H.264, raw WebM (or Theora), and H.264 embedded in Flash. Google has thrown a monkey wrench into our workflow and best practices, and I’m not the only one complaining."

Will Google drop H.264 in YouTube?

That's the big question that's been on everyone's mind. The Guardian’s Charles Arthur asked Google directly and was told that this change is related to Chrome and not YouTube. Google supports many formats on YouTube, and has an opt-in HTML5 trial for YouTube. Browsers that support the video tag in HTML5 can choose either the H.264 video codec or the WebM format (with VP8 codec).

Arthur went on to ask a number of other related questions that posed by commenters of his previous post, Google's WebM v H.264: who wins and loses in the video codec wars?, and summed up Google's answers:
  • "YouTube isn't giving up H.264. At all. You can, if you're determined, get WebM/VP8 content on YouTube (both to contribute and download). There's the possibility that it is re-encoding all its content into WebM - just as it did to H.264 in June 2007, when the iPhone was about to arrive. That took something like three or four months to do. The library is bigger now, but so is Google's processing power."
  • "The lack of any date, or inclination, on the part of YouTube indicates that this is purely a decision made by the Chrome team to push things along."
  • "This isn't going to affect the mobile side - so iPhones, iPads, iPod Touches are not going to go dark."
  • "Hardware to decode VP8 might be on the horizon - but Google can't do much to push it along except improve the codec, and do things like, well, drop H.264 support in its browser. (Pretty much everyone will see no difference, because the H.264 decoding will be handed off to the operating system.) I asked how many people are working on improving the VP8 codec, since that's sometimes helpful to know: is it a priority? But Google didn't want to discuss team sizes. Hm."

WebM's growing support

While this situation has become more complicated for video publishers, many within the tech industry believe that support for WebM will grow as the format gains wider adoption among software and hardware vendors. This past week, the Free Software Foundation, a non-profit corporation that advocates free software ideals and an early supporter of WebM, publicly urged web site owners to distribute videos in the WebM format, and abandon H.264.

This infographic by Niels Leenheer shows the current and future state of H.264 vs. WebM.


Changes for Google, Apple and HTML5

Whether or not Google's claim of open video is genuine or not, or if its stand against H.264 in Chrome is really a swipe at Apple's dominance in the mobile browser market, it's interesting to note that both Google and Apple have seen a change in leadership within the last week – with Steve Jobs taking a leave of absence with Apple COO Tim Cook stepping in at Apple and Google Co-founder Larry Page replacing Eric Schmidt as Google's new CEO.

It's also interesting to note that just a few days after the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), the international community that oversees the HTML standard, introduced a new HTML5 logo  to promote next-generation Web technology, a related standards group, the Web Hypertext Application Technology Working Group (WHATWG), a community of web browser manufacturers and people interested in evolving the HTML, declared that HTML5 was dead and that the HTML specification will henceforth just be known as "HTML" referred to simply as HTML.

As for the online video industry and what the future holds, the codec conundrum continues.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

What Does Google's Decision to Drop H.264 from Chrome Mean For Online Video Publishers?

Just when it appeared that the online video industry was moving toward a video standard, with H.264 video playback in HTML5 – more chaos ensued with Google's announcement of its plans to phase out support for H.264 in its Chrome browser, in favor of open source formats like its own WebM or Theora. Like shot heard round the world, the news spread quickly throughout the web sparking a flurry of commentary and debate on the reasoning behind Google's decision. The overwhelming response within the online video industry is that this move by Google will set the adoption of HTML5 video back even further, and for online video publishers, this creates even more confusion and potentially a massive increase in video publishing costs.

The stakes are high in the battle for a video standard for the web and mobile devices. It's a war that's been brewing for several years with open source advocates pushing for a free and open codec unrestricted of proprietary licenses for the HTML5 video element, and an industry that has been built on a widely adopted yet proprietary and licensed video codec. But the lack of a single codec standard that is supported across web browsers is not only a serious issue for publishers but a stalemate for the industry.

WebM is a relatively new media file format Google introduced last May at the i/O developers conference, as a royalty free open source license packaging its VP8 video codec and the open source audio codec Vorbis, as part of Google's wider open source initiative called WebM Project. The goal of the WebM project, Google says, is "dedicated to developing a high-quality, open video format for the web that is freely available to everyone." WebM was launched with support by Mozilla, Opera, Adobe, Google and more than forty other publishers, software and hardware vendors. Absent from the list companies at launch was of course, Apple and also Microsoft, which back H.264 in Safari and IE9. However, Microsoft has said it will support VP8 as well. Google acquired the VP8 codec when with its acquisition of video codec maker On2 Technologies last year.

H.264/AVC video format is the digital video coding industry standard H.264/MPEG-4 Part 10, or AVC  used widely in set-top boxes, media player and other personal computer software, mobile devices, Blu-ray Disc players and recorders, game machines, personal media player devices and still and video cameras. Apple has become most outspoken proponent of AVC, and backs it as the standard video codec used for its HTML5 video compatible mobile iDevices like the iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch, as well as for iTunes videos. Several months ago, the MPEG LA reversed its decision and freed up the license of H.264, and will not charge royalties for any content that is free to consumers. It was speculated by many that the move by the MPEG LA was spurred on by Google's release of VP8 as an open source royalty free video codec.

But how much of Google's decision to abandon H.264 is based on its goal to "enable open innovation" or to capture future market share?

In a short post this past week on the Chromium Blog: HTML Video Codec Support in Chrome, Google Product Manager Mike Jazayeri said that its decision was a move to make Chrome consistent with the codecs already supported by the open Chromium project:
"We expect even more rapid innovation in the web media platform in the coming year and are focusing our investments in those technologies that are developed and licensed based on open web principles. To that end, we are changing Chrome’s HTML5 (video) support to make it consistent with the codecs already supported by the open Chromium project. Specifically, we are supporting the WebM (VP8) and Theora video codecs, and will consider adding support for other high-quality open codecs in the future. Though H.264 plays an important role in video, as our goal is to enable open innovation, support for the codec will be removed and our resources directed towards completely open codec technologies."
Some interesting commentary on Slashdot pointed to more scrupulous plans that Google is manipulating the market for selfish reasons to reap hundreds of billions in WebM devices. Also, on Daring Fireball, John Gruber asked 5 Simple Questions for Google Regarding Chrome's Dropping of H.264 which many of us would like to know the answers.

But what about all the millions of websites that content publishers around the world have adopted H.264 as HTML5's video element over the last year?
 Jazayeri added:
"These changes will occur in the next couple months but we are announcing them now to give content publishers and developers using HTML (video) an opportunity to make any necessary changes to their sites."
Okay, so what this means is that by default, the Chrome browser will automatically playback videos encoded in either the WebM or Theora open source standards, but will need a plug-in just like the Flash Player plug-in to play anything encoded in H.264 – which is actually the more widely adopted standard used throughout the industry. H.264 and can be decoded by hardware in many devices, like tablets and mobile phones.

So now content publishers will have to go back to encoding multiple versions of their videos in different file formats and codecs, primarily in H.264, WebM and even Flash. Or for many publishers, take the easy way out and go back to delivering video in Flash, since the Flash Player is baked into Chrome and Flash video will play on all the browsers.

Many are speculating that this is all about  timed announcement to steal Apple's thunder of its Verizon iPhone announcement, at least in the short term, and also upset Apple's domination in the mobile device and digital media industry. Others are calling Google hypocritical for dropping H.264 and not Flash, which requires a plug-in.

ReadWriteWeb calls this current situation, A Stalemate of Standards: What H.264 Means for the Average User, and spoke with Co-founder Justin Day who said that Google's move is a step back to the Dark Ages and also Michael Critz, a freelance interactive and motion graphic designer, who agreed that this is a regression for the average user.

According to Day:
"I think from our standpoint this looks like a regression. We're all for open formats, but they should be chosen based on their merits, not merely their license. This move means that Chrome users will suffer from a worse user experience because they will need to rely on Flash fallback."
Last month announced it has adopted HTML5 as the standard video player on its site after years of serving Flash video. Day says that there really is no competition between WebM and H.264 for the content producer because of the low cost tools available to create higher quality video using H.264.

As a content creator, Critz agreed:
"There isn't a desktop WebM conversion tool that worth a pile of beans to what's available now for H.264. I'm often traveling for video shoots. If I'm on a shoot in Miami and working all day then I get back to my hotel room I know I can depend on my Turbo.264 encoder to give me hardware accelerated H.264 encoding that I can use online, in Flash, on my producers' iPad, and on my clients' iPhones and Blackberry phones."
In a detailed report on Ars Technica, Peter Bright wrote that, Google's dropping H.264 from Chrome a step backward for openness and creates more work and cost for video publishers.

Bright said:
"Video distributors wanting to support both Flash and HTML5 users will have to encode twice; once in H.264, for Flash users, and again in WebM, for HTML5 users. This doubles the computational cost, doubles the storage requirements, and as an added bonus will tend to hurt quality. This is inconvenient for a small site with one or two videos; for sites like SmugMug it's an enormous headache. They can either suffer the doubled costs and complexity, or ignore HTML5 altogether and stick with Flash.
It looks like sticking with Flash and ignoring the (video) tag is indeed what SmugMug may end up doing. And who can blame them? Flash works for almost every Internet user, and Flash supports H.264."
Jan Ozer also commented while Chrome only has a small percentage of the web browser market it will be interesting to consider what's to come. He advised producers and publishers to check their wallets because they'll find less money in it, now that we're well on our way to a Two-codec world.

So how much will this disrupt the browser market share?

As far as browsers go, they are waging their own war and actually, Chrome is a small player compared to Internet Explorer and Firefox which is second to IE. But in just about two years since its launch Chrome's market share is currently about 13.5%, which is about twice that of Opera and Safari combined.

Both Firefox and Opera lack native H.264 support, so combined with Chrome, the browsers without H.264 support total 44.05%. Internet Explorer has the largest market share with 44.53%, Safari has 5.8%

Along with the browsers, the opponents on each side of the format war are Apple, Google and Adobe continue to wrestle control over video formats, and I've said before the battle continues and publishers and consumers are caught in the struggle. Now with even more fragmentation within the online video ecosystem no support for common video codecs across the industry, we are even further away from reaching an online and mobile video standard anytime soon.

For video publishers, it's clear that there will be additional costs involved in delivering video to all web browsers and mobile devices. For companies in the video encoding business, this must be your lucky day.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

2011 Predictions from Around the Web - Online Video, Social Media, Technology and More

As the first week of 2011 comes to a close, many trends have already emerged. Each January kicks off with a spotlight on the latest gadgets and technology for consumers with the 2011 International CES in Las Vegas. This year the show will be known as the year of the tablets, 3D TVs, connected devices and mobile, and again without actually being at the show, Apple's news that iPhone will finally be coming to Verizon overshadowed much of the news coming from Las Vegas.

Each year also brings out the many predictions of how online video, social media and technology will shape the consumer and business markets and set the stage for the future. Online video has seen explosive growth over the last few years and continues to reach record levels with U.S. video views surpassing 30 billion in November 2010. Many predict that 2011 will be a breakthrough year for video advertising, with mobile devices viewing the majority of video ads. Advertising is also expected grow within social media with video properties emerging as the top ad networks. A number of voices in the online video space have already gone on record with their 2011 predictions. For a second year in a row, VidCompare assembled a number thought leaders from the OVP space to offer their forecast of the year ahead, consisting of: BrightcoveMagnify.netKalturaFliqzRealGravityMarcellus.TVWistia and vzaar.

Jeff Whatcott predicts more device fragmentation, increase in social viewing and sharing and continued consolidation of players in the space. Steve Rosenbaum says 2011 is the year we Connect, that Content = Commerce, and that we Curate. Ron Yekutiel says the demand for open-source solutions will be driven by user demand, further commoditization and a shift to the application layer, and more cloud solutions. Benjamin Wayne thinks Amazon will get into the device business, Hulu and Google will distribute feature films and the Asia will surpass the U.S. for online video consumption and monetization. Luke McDonough says video advertising will heat up, the industry will respond to connected TVs but it will quickly become irrelevant because of mobile and geo-location. Preetam Mukherjee predicts the Eastward boom to tap markets in Asia-Pacific, Africa and the Middle East, along with freemium video models and CDN wars. Christopher Savage sees many more sites defaulting to HTML5 first with Flash back up, a new swatch of SMBs embracing video and more vide production companies to service that market and the enterprise. Finally, Ian Snead sees more demand for security of online video, more consolidation between CDN vendors and full service OVPs and, improved content delivery methods.

In a recent VideoNuze TDG webinar, Colin Dixon and Will Richmond identified 6 key trends in online and mobile video for 2011, that included Google emerging as a key Hollywood partner, Netflix strains under incredible growth, cord-cutting gains, no change in net neutrality enforcement, mobile video has breakout year, and TV Everywhere struggles.

Jim O'Neil of Fierce Online Video News predicts that DVDs will bite the dust, Netflix will conquer the world and get gobbled up by Google, Microsoft or Apple, more consolidation within the OVP space, cord cutting will be a hot topic and continue evolve, and Comcast will say 'aloha' to Hulu.

Nalts predicts that WebTV will be a bloodbath, video platforms will continue to get commoditized, the YouTube community will stay alive, video search will suck less, video greetings will get more awkward,   video destinations will rival YouTube, we will need curation, online video will get more social, we'll pay more for broadband, and Google will go beyond YouTube. usinesses will continue to invest in social media for marketing and customer interaction. Curation tools will become the primary way people will use social media. Facebook will evolve as a E-Commerce platfor,

Metcafe CEO Erik Hachenburg offered his predictions on the industry in this article: MediaPost Publications 2011: The Future of Consolidation In The Online Video Industry, and says that since YouTube reigns as the the top video ad network and ad networks will need to consolidate to compete. But that's just the first step he says, and the next phase will focus on "content verticalization" so expect to see more consolidation among video companies, especially among video destination sites.

Hachenburg also recorded this video to share his 2011 predictions for online video advertising:
"With online advertising revenues at record highs and all eyes on online video as the key growth driver for the sector throughout 2011, the future looks bright as we prepare for the New Year. So what’s in store? Here are Metacafe CEO Erick Hachenburg's top-five predictions for online video advertising in 2011."

Among his 5 predictions, Hachenburg says that Hulu will abandon its IPO ad be bought by Comcast instead, which Ryan Lawler thinks is just one person's crazy prediction, but interesting nonetheless.

Justin Foster wrote an excellent post on The Video Commerce Consortium Blog Archive » Top Ten Video Commerce Predictions for 2011, and he predicts the following:
"2011 is going to be the year of mobile video commerce, with social playing an important role.  Automated video optimization emerges as a key driver of video commerce, and video email will make meaningful strides forward, breathing new life into a critical channel for online retailers and brands that sell direct.  The industry struggles to find a winning video format, restraining growth from explosive levels, but video reach increases as more marketers adopt Promoted Videos.  Automated video continues to improve in quality, but remains confined to a small niche of overall e-commerce video.  We’ll see one, maybe two, meaningful commertainment initiatives emerge, probably from a large lifestyle retailer that’s willing to make a bet.  More retailers will grow their in-house video studios, and SEO remains a key component of an overall video commerce strategy."
For over the last month, I've been collecting 2011 predictions from around the web, and many of them can be found in this very well curated list from Search Engine Land: The Big List: 168 Marketing Trends, Predictions & Resolutions For 2011 that breaks it down by numerous categories – Industry, Paid Search, SEO, Local/Mobile, Email, Social Media, B2B, General Online Marketing, Web Design & Development/E-Commerce, Affiliate Marketing and Miscellaneous –  or this massive list: What are experts predicting for 2011? | Samuel Parent's Blog that segments even more predictions by theme – Advertising, Ad Spend, B2B, Business, Consumers, Design, Economy, Email, Marketing, Mobile, Newspapers, Social Media, Radio, Tablets, Television and Video.

I've taken the same approach with my list below and include several videos and slideshows.

Online Video, Online Video Advertising and Marketing
Consumer Trends, Finance and Markets
Digital Media, TV and Entertainment
Social Media
Tech Industry

JWT: 100 Things to Watch in 2011  
View more presentations from JWTIntelligence.
  • 100 things to watch in 2011 | JWT Intelligence - by Ann Mack - New York - Beer Sommeliers, F-Commerce, Objectifying Objects … just a few items from our list of 100 Things to Watch in 2011. It’s a wide-ranging compilation that in part reflects broader shifts we’ve been tracking over the past few years, notably the evolution of the mobile phone into an “everything hub,” a trend we’ll see play out in myriad ways next year. Other items reflect counter-trends—for instance, to balance out our growing immersion in the digital world, people will increasingly embrace face-to-face gatherings and digital downtime. Many of our Things to Watch are technology-centric, with smart infrastructure ramping up, the rise of tablets for tots and some truly futuristic-seeming developments (3D printing, virtual mirrors, electronic profiling). Web-wise, Things to Watch will include a growth in Facebook commerce, apps beyond mobile and more social browsers. The people on the list—from pop culture, sports, architecture, fashion and other sectors—have the potential to drive or shape trends in the near future. Check out our list, along with a little bit about what makes each item worth watching, below. (Or to download the presentation with fully functioning links, click here.)
  • Nick Morgan, Public Words: The Year Ahead: Fearless Predictions for Communications in 2011
  • Ten things Web users should fear in 2011 - The Red Tape Chronicles -
That's all for now, we'll see how things shake out as the year progresses. But there's one thing we know for sure and that is, this year we're turning it up to 11, and it will be louder than last year!

Thursday, January 6, 2011

CES 2011 Surprise: Skype Acquires Qik for Live Video Mobile Streaming

In a surprise move that further consolidates Skype's position as the leader of the live video calling market, Skype CEO Tony Bates confirmed that his company has agreed to acquire Qik, the popular live mobile streaming startup. The announcement was made today at CES 2011, and transaction is expected to close in January 2011. Terms of the acquisition were not disclosed but Silicon Alley Insider estimated the deal at about $100-150 million.

Skype made a number of other service improvements announcements,  including: partnerships with Sony, Vizio and Panasonic and to build Skype into its HDTVs and Blu-ray players, partnerships with Verizon and OnStar to bring video its services, a Skype kit of APIs to allow OEMs to build on the Skype platform, and group video calling for $8.99 a month allowing multi-party video chat up to 10 parties.

Just last week Skype made our dreams come true by bringing video chat to the iPhone, it continues to broaden its reach with each partnership; and the acquisition of Qik rounds out its portfolio, and removes a popular competitor in the mobile video space. Among the list of competitors includes Apple's FaceTime, along with Google voice and video chatFringooVoo, Bambuser and several other live video mobile apps. As I previously noted, mobile video has been considered one of the biggest trends that will explode in 2011, and with the percentage of Skype calls taking place over video growing, Skype has clearly become the dominant player in the two-way video calling market. Skype filed for its IPO in mid-2010 and is expected later this year.

Skype CEO Tony Bates announced that this was Skype's first acquisition in this CES press conference and part of its strategy for premium video services. He also recorded a short video message for Skype blog.

skype on Broadcast Live Free

In the company press release, Bates added:
“The Qik team has delivered exceptional video experiences for its mobile partners and millions of end users across a range of devices. Skype’s software enables an estimated 25 percent of the world’s international long distance voice calling minutes , and approximately 40 percent of those Skype-to-Skype calls are happening over video. Qik’s deep engineering capabilities and strong mobile relationships will be an impressive complementary fit with Skype.”
The two companies have have a common purpose, as the press release stated:
"...of enriching communications and sharing with video, across any device. The acquisition of Qik helps accelerate Skype’s leadership in video by adding recording, sharing and storing capabilities to Skype’s product portfolio. Through this acquisition, Skype will also be able to leverage the engineering expertise that is behind Qik’s Smart Streaming™ technology, which optimizes video transmission over wireless networks."
For more on Bates' CES 2011 announcement, see this post by Adrian Pennington:  Skype Adds Qik to Go Mobile Ahead of IPO - Also see these post by Sarah Reedy on why this deal matters: Light Reading Mobile - CES 2011: Skype Buys Up Qik for Mobile Push - Telecom News Analysis.

In this video, Qik Co-Founder and SVP of Product Bhaskar Roy shares an inside look at the Qik Story:

Vijay Tella, CEO of Qik said:
“Qik has worked very hard to solve complex problems that allow millions of people everyday to take advantage of sharing their lives with those people who are most important to them. Joining Skype allows Qik’s team to unite with Skype’s talented team to develop new and innovative products for our customers and partners.”
Qik was founded in 2006, and is headquartered in Redwood City, California with has an office in Moscow, Russia. The 60 employee company has built innovative solutions to capture and share video with anyone across mobile devices, the web, and desktop platforms. Videos can be recorded and streamed in real time or stored for later viewing. The popular Qik service is available to over 5 million users on over 200 mobile phones, including Android, iPhone, Symbian, Blackberry and Windows Mobile platforms, and comes pre-loaded on a wide variety of mobile handsets through partnerships with leading handset manufacturers and mobile networks.

Qik recently released its Andoird streaming app Interesting to note, earlier today TechCrunch reported that Qik quitely raised $6.3 million from Quest Venture Partners and Almaz Capital Partners.

So how big is the live video calling market?

In a report on USA Today, Jon Swartz noted:
"An estimated 13.2 million people worldwide will make video calls this year — up fourfold from last year. Some 155.1 million will perform such calls in 2015, predicts market researcher In-Stat. Military families and people separated by time zones, in particular, are taking advantage of the technology. "It is more enveloping for long-distance relationships," says Frank Dickson, a mobile analyst at In-Stat. He estimates the market for mobile-based video calls will eclipse $1 billion by 2015."
I've written frequently about Qik over the last few years and in my first Qik post from December 2007, It Looks Like the Revolution Will Be Televised, I noted that this would be the next new killer app – live video streaming from mobile to web. Robert Scoble and Steve Garfield were both Qik early adopters, and at that time, lifecasting and video blogging was coming into its own, and live mobile broadcasting created endless lifecasting possibilities that went way beyond the Dick Tracy wrist phone. Your cell phone can become a live broadcast channel. Now that mobile has become the next wave of our video communications, there's no doubt that the video revolution will not only be televised, but it will be two-way live video channel called Skype.

About Skype
Skype is a communications platform provider whose purpose is to break down barriers to communication. With an Internet-connected device, families, friends and colleagues can get together for free with messaging, voice and video. At low cost, they can also call landlines or mobiles virtually anywhere in the world. Skype has recently introduced group video, allowing groups of more than two people to do things together whenever they’re apart. Skype was founded in 2003 and is based in Luxembourg. Skype can be downloaded onto computers, mobile phones and other connected devices for free at You can get news and updates from Skype on its blog: Twitter: or Facebook:

About Qik
Qik is a leader in the mobile video space enabling smart phone users around the world to capture special and spontaneous life moments from anywhere and instantly share those moments with friends, family and followers. Qik’s comprehensive solution meets all consumer video needs including video calling, video sharing, video messaging and the ability to sync and save videos to the web and desktop. Qik has headquarters in Redwood City, California and an office in Moscow, Russia.

See these related Klessblog posts for more on Qik:

Sunday, January 2, 2011

2010 Was a Breakout Year for Online Video: A Klessblog Year-End Review - Part 3

In 2010, as many predicted, the online video industry would mature with multiple screen delivery, TV Everywhere, the rise of OTT and set-top boxes, mobile video and business models for paid content. There were several high profile acquisitions and funding announcements, and fallen video companies, Joost and Veoh, got second leases on life. HTML5 and H.264 video became one of the hottest topics as the online video platform industry geared up for the April 2010 launch of the iPad.

In July, I was pleased to VidCompare as my first official blog sponsor. For those who read this blog from the website, you may have noticed the VidCompare widget in the right sidebar above the RSS feeds. VidCompare is a free interactive online comparison engine for business decision makers looking for an Online Video Platform (OVP) Provider. VidCompare was launched in September 2009 by Kris Drey and Alex Polonsky, to offer "unbiased, and vendor-neutral tools like user reviews, side-by-side comparisons, and detailed provider information."

Video and Social media is transforming the way companies communicate to its internal employees and to the public. Many organizations have changed their marketing and communications strategies and tactics by launching company Wikis and blogs, official Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn profiles, YouTube Channels, internal video contests, podcasts, and endless conversation channels. I spoke with Mark Ragan, CEO of Ragan Communications, to get his insight on health care Communications. Ragan said that social media does is create a conversation and offered advise to companies that say it's too hard to get into social media, don't know how to get started, or don't have the resources to produce a video to pick one thing, take your time and do it well. For example, start a company blog around an event or topic, write compelling content and people will get involved and join the conversation.

In the online video industry, more news of consolidation within the  market came with the announcement that Arizona-based content delivery network Limelight Networks Inc. had acquired online video platform Delve Networks for an undisclosed sum, but was estimated $10 million. The deal could be viewed as an example of the CDN industry blurring the lines between the online video publishing and content delivery markets. Online video platforms have gained a greater share of customers across the spectrum of major corporations and SMBs by offering scalable plans at affordable rates, extensible modules and content delivery solutions. Over the last few years, with the rise of the OVP market, CDNs have been viewed as more of a commodity that just delivers the data.

This theme of the value chain was carried on from a panel session I moderated earlier in the year at Streaming Media East 2010 on, Video Publishing Platforms and the Value They Bring to the Market. The session featured a diverse panel from the online video world, including Bismarck C Lepe of Ooyala; Krish Melon of Synaptic Digital, Ron Yekutiel of Kaltura and Jason Liebman of Howcast. Each speaker shared customer use cases that demonstrated how businesses are using online video, along with capabilities and new features available from their platforms.

Photo credit: Vidcompare
Ron Yekutiel pointed out that video is becoming an integrated portion to everything on the web, and companies any size need video tools for the variety of business, training, marketing and e-Commerce applications. The core components of a platform that are needed to publish video for online and mobile experiences include tools to upload, encoding, manage, syndicate, monetize and view analytics. Krish Menon spoke to the importance of businesses having delivery methods that best fit the communication need and that the key is to "create once and deploy many."

Bismarck Lepe also emphasized that video platforms make it easier for customers to build businesses with online video, and that it's not just about on-demand content but also live streaming. He noted that video platforms are on the forefront of the market and better understand the consumer's video viewing patterns, and are best suited to help businesses better innovate with video. Jason Liebman said that Howcast thinks more of the video end-to-end video life cycle, and uses data on what people are searching for and viewing to drive creative and business decisions.

Knowing who your audience is and what they want to watch are key to a successful video strategy, and to get more perspective on this topic I met with Erick Hachenburg, CEO of the online video entertainment site Metacafe. Hachenburg discussed how his company has shifted its business model to focus on showcasing premium content to target young entertainment enthusiasts. The online video market continues to grow and Metacafe sees this as a ripe opportunity to connect advertisers with the, "Entertainment Drivers," enthusiasts and influencers who drive entertainment decisions, define pop culture and determine breakout hits in the social media world. Metacafe has assembled an editorial team of movie experts, led by Mark Poggi, formerly of Netflix, and Steven Horn, formerly of Rotten Tomatoes, who was named Vice President of Programming responsible for managing Metacafe’s five premium entertainment studios of, Movies, Video Games, TV, Sports and Music. I caught up with Steven Horn later in the year to hear more about how Metacafe is using editors to program premium content packages.

Returning to industry news, we saw another OVP get acquired when Cisco announced its intent to acquire ExtendMedia Inc., to power its multi-screen delivery and "TV Everywhere" services.  While financial terms of the transaction are undisclosed, Streaming Media EVP, Dan Rayburn estimates the the deal at $80 million which is expected to be complete in the first half of Cisco's fiscal year 2011.

Over the last several years, Cisco has been building its video empire with a focus on video collaboration, content creation and management, with the purchase of the Pure Digital, makers of popular Flip Video Camera, and videoconferencing vendor Tandberg, who it competed with in the TelePresence market. Several years earlier, Cisco also acquired web conferencing platform WebEx, a desktop collaboration standard for many companies and core to Cisco's unified communications experience. There's also speculation that Cisco will expand into the booming virtual event platform its own product for managing large scale virtual events. Also, on the heels of Cisco's acquisition of Extend Media, a rumor that Cisco made an offer to acquire Skype before the Internet telephony company makes an IPO, which they just announced on August 9th. Skype though some news of its own by introducing 10-way video calls.

The video codec format war heated up as well, with the announcement by the MPEG LA, that it has freed up the license of the H.264 AVC (Advanced Video Coding) codec, and will not charge royalties for any content that is free to consumers. Many have speculated that the move by the MPEG LA was spurred on by Google's release of VP8 as an open source royalty free video codec, a new rival to H.264/AVC and potential replacement to the open source Theora. Ultimately, it's all not just about patents and licenses, there's a much bigger back story. While many big video websites, like YouTube and Vimeo, have rolled out their own HTML5 video players, publishers and consumers are held at bay by the big browser developers that can't agree which video codec to support in HTML5.

In viral video news, the summer of 2010 will be remembered by viral video hit, BED INTRUDER SONG!!!  by the The Gregory Brothers which spawned an Internet phenomenon. Both the song add the video became a remix anthem that has seen over 60 million views on YouTube to date, broke into the Billboard 100 and spurred covers of the video and song, merchandising, and a 50/50 split of the iTunes revenue between Antoine and Kelly Dodson and The Gregory Brothers —which consists of brothers: Michael, Andrew and Evan and Evan’s wife, Sarah.

The song, with its memorable lyrics, captured an angry Antoine Dodson directly addressing the camera warning viewers of the rapist that attacked his sister: "He's climbing in your windows, he's snatching your people up trying to rape them. So you need to hide your kids, hide your wife, and hide your husband, cuz they're rapin' errbody out here.."

The NY Times called this phenomenon, "a rare case of a product of Web culture jumping the species barrier and becoming a pop hit. The Gregory Brothers are enjoying their rise to fame and continue to Auto-Tune the News and are working in a pilot for Comedy Central that should air sometime in 2011. Dodson admitted that he and his sister Kelly have benefited from the viral fame through what he called a "golden opportunity", and said they will be using the proceeds from the song to move to a safer neighborhood and to a foundation for juvenile diabetes, a condition which both Kelly and his mother have.

As summer ended, I started to gear up for the Online Video Platform Summit which returned for a second, this Time in L.A., November 2 - 3, 2010.  I was pleased to announce that I'd be working again with Eric Schumacher-Rasmussen, as co-chair of the event. I was also invited to join a SXSW 2011 Panelpicker Session - Beyond the Box Office: Distributing Your Film Online that was being organized by Malaika Mose (which unfortunately did not get selected) and I also was invited to be a judge for the newly created Strategic Video Awards, which will announce the winners in early 2011.

In consumers electronic news, Flip video fans around the world applauded Cisco's announcement that the New Flip UltraHD Finally Promises An External Microphone Input, Available in Early 2011 Through New FlipPort. One the big drawbacks of the Flip video camera has been the inability to capture good quality sound,  and many were disappointed with the release earlier in the year of the SlideHD, which didn't include an external microphone input jack. The long awaited ability to connect an external microphone to the wildly popular pocket video camera will be possible in only the new UltraHD 8GB model, through a new proprietary port called a "FlipPort" located on the bottom of the device, and will connect peripherals that are part of the new "Designed for Flip" accessory program. The microphone is designed by Blue Microphones and called Mikey for FLIP, and and will likely debut at CES 2011.

In a follow up interview form Streaming Media East, I caught up with with Jason Liebman, CEO and Co-founder of Howcast to learn more the instructional video market, and why Howcast thinks every company should look at themselves as a media company. The distribution and uses cases for video include: brand building campaigns, customer support and e-Commerce experiences, social media campaigns. Howcast is seeing an increased need for video for all these different use cases, and suggests that every company look at itself as a media company. Liebman advises brands to have a social media strategy to support the distribution of their content to all these destinations. Core to that strategy is having good content to engage your audience and create conversation around it.

More news of shuttering within the online video space when, "Twitter for Video" startup announced it would officially shuts down October 22. Co-founder Sol Lipman explained that 12seconds was in its twilight and had reached the end of its life cycle. 12seconds seemed to have followed a similar path as Seesmic, which also started up as a video community but re-engineered itself as a Twitter client developer. Rather than shutting down the site, Seesmic deemphasized the video conversations to a new domain which is still up and running.

In other news, the latest dance craze that swept the tech world was, "Do the CEO Shuffle" with two notable and high profile positions being filled yesterday at Skype and Twitter. Making the news again,  Cisco announced its TelePresence product for consumers called ūmi. TelePresence grew out of the videoconferencing industry, which has helped shape the way we communicate, by bridging the distance between the many miles that separate us. I feel fortunate to have worked for Bob Bodine, who was a great leader, mentor, and in my book, a videoconferencing legend

As October turned to November, I updated business cards for Online Video Publishing [dot] com, which I would be handing  out at Streaming Media West 2010 and the Online Video Platform Summit. I was also planning to conduct another series of interviews at the conference like I did at Streaming Media East 2010. I also noted that for the online video platform industry, it was more serious business. According to a 2010 research report from Strategy Analytics, the OVP industry is an overcrowded space with numerous players competing in a still nascent market, yet it soared past $200 million a year. The report, "Online Video Platforms: Battling for Supremacy in a Fiercely Competitive Market," predicts continued rapid growth and consolidation in this sector, which could potentially reach more than $1 billion by 2015.

Different OVPs offer different features and target different types of content and customers. With more than 80 online video platforms to choose from, the Online Video Platform Summit programmed a series of sessions packed with experts speakers to help attendees better understand the OVP market and use cases for video, including: How to Choose the Right Online Video Platform for Your BusinessBut What About the Content? Curation, Aggregation, and CreationIf You Publish It, Will They Come?New Strategies for Marketing and E-CommerceThe New Video Landscape: Multi-platform Distribution, Monetization, and FragmentationDelivering Content to Mobile DevicesOnline Video by the Numbers: Analytics, Reporting, and Metrics.

Following Streaming Media West and the Online Video Platform Summit, I made it to GigOm's NewTeeVee Live event in San Francisco, on November 10. Last year, I moderated an analytics panel at NewTeeVee Live, and this year I went as a member of the press to cover the event. November has always been a big month in the conference circuit, and over the past several years, it has also turned into a big month for the online video industry. With major conference events like Streaming Media West, with the Online Video Platform Summit, and NewTeeVee Live, all taking place within the first two weeks of the month, these annual events have really put the "OV" in November.

I spoke with a wide variety of people from the online video industry as well as online video platform customers, and I want to thank everyone who took the time to talk with me, to share their industry perspectives, insights and innovations. Also, thanks again to my friend Mark Robertson, and also to Grant Crowell, who assisted me on some of the videos with lighting, audio and interviews for ReelSEOSee this post for a list of the people I interviewed, or stay tuned to this blog. I actually was the subject of an interview myself and talked about how in a hospital, video is second class data.

As 2010 started to wind down, I caught up with Steven Horn, Metacafe's VP of Programming, to hear more about how Metacafe's editorial voice drives the consumption of online video and the power of premium content. According to Horn, his editors make better programmers than machine driven algorithms, because editors know what readers want. Horn also believes that there's a certain craft to programming and that Metacafe's approach provides greater value to consumers and to content creators.

I also spoke with David Burch, Marketing Director of Tubemogul to get some video marketing tips and an update on video industry trends. Online video audiences continue to grow, with more and more people are watching more video across the board. According to Tubemogul research, people are more likely to click on a link if it's a video and on average audiences clicking on video links from Twitter watch a video 36.91% longer than viewers referred by Facebook and 49.98% longer than viewers referred by Digg. In addition, Brightcove and Tubemogul's Online Video & Media Industry Quarterly Research Report, found that online video discovery is shifting from search to social media. Twitter and Facebook attract more engaged viewers than other sites and are growing faster than search engines, and while Google search is still king, social media marketing gaining ground fast.

In an interview from earlier in the year, online video pioneer Jeroen "JW" Wijering described how HTML5 Video Is Not Quite There Yet. According to JW, there's a lot of video tag euphoria within today's tech industry and the practical side of HTML5 video development has been overlooked and faces a major threat.

In my last few posts from 2010, I started to my interviews from the Online Video Platform Summit, which included Jeremy Allaire, Chairman and CEO of Brightcove, to hear his strategy on how to reach viewers in increasingly complex and fragmented video landscape. Allaire was the keynote speaker at the OVP Summit, and in his talk and he said that, "Everyone is an online video publisher," and that online video platforms have emerged as critical partners to publishers by creating solutions that help them navigate the complex and fragmented online video landscape. I also spoke with Peter Himmelman, independent singer/songwriter, to talk about how online video is key to the music industry's survival.

Finally, after much waiting and anticipation and in the waning moments of 2010, Skype makes our dreams come true with Skype for iPhone 3.0, Video Chat Now Available! Mobile video has been considered one of the biggest trends that will explode in 2011, and now Skype's impending dominance of the two-way video chat market is apparent. With its global and mainstream reach of approximately 25 million people signed into Skype at any given time, along with its recent integration with Facebook, Skype has become the biggest disruptor of the live video space.

Photo credit: Vidcompare
So, we close the book on 2010 but we are still in the beginning stages of a seismic change in how we create, manage, publish and consume video content. The online video industry is still a nascent space, but continues to mature. Business models are constantly being developed and tested, next-generation media companies are expanding their reach across the web and mobile devices, and online video is showing promise as a replacement for the traditional television and cable industry. For businesses and organizations of all sizes, video has become an integral platform for communications, marketing, PR and education. I'm looking forward to what's in store in for 2011.

Again, my thanks to everyone and all the best to you in the new year.

Updated: 1/3/2011, 1/4/20111