Web Video Is Still a Mess

It looks like no one can agree on what is the best way to deliver video over the web. Why is this important? Because with ubiquitous fast connections and processors, video is the preferred medium online for entertainment and in many cases, information. If a picture is worth a thousand words, and a sound is worth a thousand pictures, then video is … well, you  get the idea. If this weren’t so, TV and movies would not be at the center of the entertainment universe. And because these media can be delivered digitally, the Internet is the natural means of bringing them to consumers (which equates to big business).

So what do those who have the  power to establish the standards that will enable everyone to benefit from video online do? Fight with each other, of course, since it’s much more important to own the  whole pie than to create a level field for all to compete on. So the battle continues.

First, it was Real vs. QuickTime vs. Windows Media. Then Flash stepped in and, by virtue of YouTube’s adoption and the ubiquity of the Flash plug-in, became the de facto web video standard. Today, it’s Flash vs. H.264 (which plays without plug-ins in browsers via HTML 5). So what’s the problem? In brief, Adobe wants to own the world of web video and Apple doesn’t like this. Nor does Microsoft, which has it’s own designs on web media domination with its Silverlight technology. H.264 is owned by several patent holders who can’t agree on anything, especially royalties, and the Firefox and Opera browsers support a format that few have heard of (Ogg Theora – ugh).

We can only hope  that this all resolves quickly, as the format war between Blu-Ray Disc and HD-DVD did in recent years. But according to this article from Webmonkey, that doesn’t appear to be likely. So in the meantime, keep that Flash plug-in handy (but not if you own anything made by Apple …)

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