Beachfront - leaderboard - 7-1-18

Analysis for 'Flash'

  • Perspective What's this? Going Flash-Free with Video: Transitioning Successfully

    As web browsers move rapidly to sunset their support for Flash, companies that rely on Flash for video playback are being forced to make changes. Apple has led the charge in driving the need for this change by disabling Flash by default in Safari 10, and Chrome, Firefox, and Microsoft’s Edge are quickly following suit. Some media companies migrated to HTML5 video players in early 2016 in anticipation of these industry-wide changes, but others have remained in a ‘wait-and-see’ mode to see if Flash really is going away.

    Companies that haven’t moved to an HTML5 video player are now stuck between a rock and a hard-place. For them, its either risk the impact of Flash being disabled and react as needed, or remove this risk at the expense of making this migration an immediate priority. The reticence of those that remain reliant on Flash has to do with not being able to properly evaluate the risk and effort involved.

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  • thePlatform and Adobe Partner For Secure Flash Video Delivery

    Premium content providers seeking to securely publish video using Flash will get a hand from thePlatform and Adobe, which are announcing a new partnership. Under the deal, customers of thePlatform's mpx video management system who use Adobe's Flash Access software for content protection will be able to use it via an integrated workflow. Flash Access also provides HTTP dynamic streaming (adaptive bit rate) and monetization options like VOD, subscription, EST and rental.

    Another aspect of the collaboration focuses on Android-powered mobile devices. Users of these devices accessing content delivered via thePlatform will have their video player using Flash optimized for their device. thePlatform's customers can also use Adobe's OSMF (Open Source Media Framework) and thePlatform's "Feeds Service" so that video can be delivered in multiple playback circumstances. Lastly, thePlatform's mpx console used Flash Builder 4  and has an AIR client so that file uploads are more efficient.

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  • New Flash Media Server 4 Targets Enterprise Users

    Adobe is releasing Flash Media Server 4 today and an important new addition to the lineup is the Flash Media Enterprise Server, with specific features targeted to the enterprise customer segment.

    These features include peer-assisted delivery using Flash's Real Time Media Flow protocol and IP multicast, the first time these have been offered. Both are meant to reduce enterprises' bandwidth expense and they can work in tandem with each other through what Adobe calls "Multicast Fusion." For the peer-assist feature, FMS works with the Flash Player 10.1 to help seed and distribute content. The enterprise focus reflects the growing use of video outside mainstream media business. Pricing wasn't released and is available for quote by Adobe reps.

    IP multicast is also available in the Flash Media Interactive Server. It also supports real-time interactive applications like video chat and other social media apps. And it also incorporates HTTP Dynamic Streaming, which was previously announced in May, allowing CDNs and others to leverage their HTTP infrastructure. HTTP streaming has become a key competitive area since Microsoft introduced Smooth Streaming, for adaptive bit rate streaming to Silverlight clients over HTTP. The Flash Media Interactive Server pricing stayed constant at $4,500. Pricing for the basic Flash Media Streaming Server also stays at $995.


     
  • Reconciling iPhone 4's Video Push With AT&T's New Data Plans

    To nobody's surprise, at Apple's Worldwide Developers Conference yesterday, Steve Jobs announced the new iPhone 4, a powerful machine with a focus on performance. It carries the specs of an iPad including an A4 processor and 800:1 contrast IPS display, along with a new 960x640, 326 pixels per inch "retina display," a pixel density that is indistinguishable to the human eye.

    The new iPhone also squarely emphasizes video use - video chat, video shooting and editing and a new Netflix app that Jobs was obviously so excited about that he brought Netflix CEO Reed Hastings up on stage to do his own short demo.

    Surprisingly though, the new iPhone's push to more video comes just days after AT&T published its new data plans that seem to disincent video-hungry power users. The new plans, which are slightly cheaper, cap users at 2GB for $25 a month with additional 1GB increments available for $10. While AT&T says that less than 2% of its users exceed the 2GB/mo threshold currently, surely new iPhone (not to mention iPad) users, tempted by all the tasty new video offerings, will start blowing through these limits, knowingly or unknowingly. In fact, it won't take much to exceed the limit; Clicker CEO Jim Lanzone estimated that just 1 HD episode of Mad Men will take up 1.51 GB, or more than 3/4 of the monthly allocation - before you've done anything else.

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  • How to Navigate the Video Format Battlefield

    Today I'm pleased to offer a guest post from Jeff Malkin, president of Encoding.com. With all the recent news around video codecs, formats and corporate battles, the world is getting increasingly complicated for content providers looking to benefit from the shift to online video. Encoding.com is in the middle of this action and today Jeff cuts through the noise and provides some recommendations for success.

    How to Navigate the Video Format Battlefield  
    by Jeff Malkin

    For content publishers and consumers, there is chaos in the video ecosystem, and it's going to get worse before it gets better. No doubt you've been reading about HTML5 vs. Flash vs. Silverlight (and recently, WebM), Apple vs. Adobe, H.264 vs. VP8, iPhone vs. Android, Do-it-Yourself vs. OVP.

    Whether serving tens or thousands of videos, maximizing viewership with reasonably high-quality videos across web and mobile devices is the new imperative.  With so many permutations of video codecs, formats, containers and features, it's confusing to design a video workflow that's cost-effective, flexible to change with the evolving formats and scalable to meet your growth requirements.  With this post, I offer a couple of recommendations to help simplify the array of options currently available. 

    Case in point: Just when it appeared that H.264 was emerging as the video codec leader, primarily because of YouTube support and strong backing by Apple on its devices, Google went and threw an open-sourced VP8 codec into the ring via the recently announced WebM project, a new video format launched by Google with support from other leading industry players such as Mozilla, Opera Software, Brightcove and Encoding.com.

    While both H.264 and VP8 are good quality codecs, only VP8 is currently royalty-free and therefore has a great opportunity to emerge as the new leader within the next year or two.  However, for web distribution today, we recommend encoding your videos using the H.264 video codec in an .mp4 container.  This is a high-quality output format already supported by Flash, and the leading HTML5 browsers including Firefox, Chrome, Safari and Internet Explorer v9.

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  • Jobs on Flash - There's No Turning Back Now

    Definitely make time to read Steve Jobs's blog post from yesterday, "Thoughts on Flash" - no doubt you'll conclude as I did that there's no turning back in this battle. Over the past few weeks the war of words between Adobe and Apple over the latter's lack of Flash support in iPhones, iPods and iPads has flared to new levels. Now Jobs's new post kicks things up another notch. Jobs's argument is mostly a technical/product one - "open" vs. "closed" systems, reliability, performance, security, battery life, touch attributes, etc. (Adobe posted a short response here)

    But Jobs's last point is clearly the most important, as he acknowledges. Apple wants to control its own destiny to provide the best products possible and doing so requires eliminating any dependency on 3rd party tools. Lack of dependency on others is a hallmark of Apple's model more generally, but when it comes to the Flash war, the number of penalties Apple is imposing due to its uncompromising position is pretty remarkable: users' inability to view video at some of the web's most popular sites like Hulu, forcing these sites to offer their video in HTML5, marginalizing smaller content providers that don't have the resources to make the change, etc.

    However, Apple's products are loved and only Jobs would have the single-mindedness and guts to force a pretty wrenching change in the video ecosystem. Until we see Android or other smartphones emerge as a counter-weight to the iPhone's hegemony, Adobe's role in video is bound to wane.

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  • Conviva Addresses Video Quality Problems Impressively

    Undoubtedly we've all had the experience at one time or another of watching (or trying to watch) a particular online video, only to have some problem arise that interrupts our experience. To the average user, it's a mystery what might have happened. Is it a problem with my computer? With my personal Internet connection? With my Internet service provider? With the source of the content?

    Regardless, it causes user frustration, which can lead to clicking away from the video, possibly never to return. More often than not, the content provider isn't even aware of these user problems. As online video becomes more central to content providers' strategies and P&Ls, inferior user experiences are a growing concern for content providers. And given the vagaries of the Internet and the exploding volume of video being consumed, it's an issue unlikely to go away anytime soon.

    That's where Conviva comes in. Conviva gives content providers unprecedented insight into their users' viewing behaviors as well as tools to quickly identify and resolve problems. As Darren Feher, Conviva's new CEO explained to me when I met up with him recently, and in a subsequent demo, the company's studies show that at least 25% of all streams suffer one problem or another. Affected users watch between 30-80% less video than those who don't have problems.

    Here's how Conviva works: a small bit of its code is integrated by the content provider alongside the Flash or Silverlight player, whichever is used (in either case no user download involved). Conviva is also integrating with online video platforms (so far just thePlatform, but others to come), so the step is eliminated for the content provider. When deployed, Conviva's code monitors the user's video experience and sends back "heartbeat" reports every 10 seconds to the Conviva console. The console gives the content provider multiple views of their users' experiences, including things like a geographic distribution of current viewing, what player's being used, the average time it's taking to start streaming, the average duration of viewing, the amount of buffering, and so on. Conviva shares the science behind all of this if you're so inclined.

    Conviva's secret sauce is mashing up all that in-bound data in real-time and detecting if/where problems exist, and when they do, what the source is. Problems could include buffering on the user's machine, issues with the currently-used CDN, congestion in the local ISP, etc. In addition to these telemetry/analytics services, the company also offers a service it calls "Conviva Distribution" which will seek to remedy problems as they arise based on a set of pre-configured policies. For example, if the user's machine is buffering, Conviva will adjust the stream being sent to a lower bit rate. Or if the CDN being used is the problem, Conviva will switch to another CDN (of the content provider's choosing) in mid-stream, unbeknownst to the user. The content provider gets real-time visibility into what troubleshooting is happening.

     

    In addition to improving the user experience, Darren believes this degree of insight opens up new opportunities for content providers. For example, say there's a higher value set of streams, maybe for a subscription service or a live event. Those streams can be tagged and monitored separately, and have greater resources allocated to them to ensure up-time. Improved visibility into videos that are going viral means their placement on the site and their monetization can be enhanced. Another example is better-informed customer service agents responding to issues specific to a certain set of videos.

    Some of what Conviva does is similar to analytics products like Omniture, performance measurement from companies like Keynote and Gomez and some of the reporting CDNs themselves provide to customers. But Conviva seems to bring together user viewing data in a unique and far deeper way than any of these. This week Conviva is helping NBC better understand its Olympics streaming using Silverlight. Conviva also counts Fox, ABC, NFL and others as customers. Conviva started life as Rinera Networks, pursing managed P2P distribution. It has raised $29 million to date from UV Partners, New Enterprise Associates and Foundation Capital.

    What do you think? Post a comment now (no sign-in required).

     
  • Akamai to Launch "Akamai HD Network" Today

    Akamai is announcing its new "Akamai HD Network" this morning, and planning a 1pm webcast to explain the details. Akamai is positioning the network as the first to deliver HD-quality live and on-demand streaming for broadcast-sized audiences. The Akamai HD Network supports Flash, Silverlight and iPhone.

    Key to the Akamai HD Network is support for adaptive bit rate ("ABR") streaming, which adjusts the quality of the video delivered based on prevailing network conditions, instant response for pause, rewind, startup, etc, an open standards HD video player and user authentication. Adobe has also optimized Flash to be delivered over Akamai's HTTP network, which appears to be a first. This allows Akamai to fully leverage its 50,000 HTTP edge-server network.

    The evolution toward HD-quality delivery has been building steam recently, as content providers increasingly recognize that TV-quality video is becoming the expected norm for online video users. This is particularly true for heavy users who substitute online viewing for TV-viewing, but don't want a degraded experience. As convergence devices, which bridge broadband to the TV in the home take off, the quality bar will rise for all users. This means that all CDNs that want to be players in video delivery will need to be able to deliver HD quality at scale. Move Networks, which I've written about before, is another company playing an important role in enabling high-quality broadband-delivered video to the TV; others will no doubt follow.

    More details coming in the webcast today at 1pm ET.

     
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