NBCOlympics.com aftereffects

Some early notes, after reading ‘way too much all week…. ;-)

Biggest takeaway: People like rich video experiences. The big sitback screen is still first choice… broadcast served far more traffic than Web. Pundits who argue “Web vs TV” are missing that it’s “Web *and* TV”. But when people can experience a “Video RIA” they like it. Good validation.

But when people are excluded, they don’t like it. Microsoft was heard as saying “we’re bringing Olympics to the world”, and only later people realized this was a US-only deal. Linux users were cut out, as were Mac/PPC owners. Then 10% of US broadband folks were cut out atop that. Microsoft would have drawn less criticism were they a little more realistic in setting expectations.

What are the numbers for Silverlight? Hard to say… still seem contradictory. Nielsen Online says in an Aug 13 press release that the video section of NBCOlympics.com received 2,030,000 unique visitors on Mon Aug 11. Microsoft is saying they got eight million “downloads” one day. When you combine geo-restriction, platform-restriction, and failed installations, the NBC site may have prompted a million successful installations one day. Looks teeny.

Whatever the actual numbers turn out to be, it doesn’t seem to mean much for making Silverlight deployment to the general public any more practical… a site would still have to eat those support costs. I risk turning RIAstats.com into a gaming target by mentioning it, but Saturday morning still shows less than 2% Silverlight 2 support. The DNC doesn’t seem like it will change this either. The numbers are still fuzzy, but it seems pretty clear Silverlight’s silver bullet shot blanks.

Still unclear to me is the mobile angle. Some US-oriented quotes seem to show this at 25% of the desktop browser video viewing. Considering there are probably device restrictions, atop the OS restrictions and geo-restrictions, this could be a big deal. Needs more detail.

Also unclear so far is the overall global picture, and how people worldwide actually used web video this Olympics. China has a bigger internet audience than the US, and much more interest in the games themselves… news services uniformly use Flash video these days… regional licensees seemed to mostly deliver in non-beta software their audiences could actually view… there was massive peer-to-peer delivery this time as well.

It will take awhile for the world to really understand this worldwide video event. Signs look good that it changed expectations in a positive and useful way. We humans do like smarter video. Good sign.

Two other bits this week, Microsoft-related, but not Olympics:

ECMAScript fell down and went boom. The best numbers I’ve seen show IE6 at 40% marketshare, IE7 at 40%, and Opera/Firefox/Safari/etc at 20%. That’s the real world. For the specification process, ECMAScript has been working on its next version for almost a decade. It’s been clear for a year Microsoft won’t implement it, and so the world won’t support it. End of story. HTML, CSS and JavaScript continue to evolve relatively slowly. Makes the whole VIDEO/RIA/Aurora predictions seem even more unrealistic. [nb: I rewrote this paragraph an hour after initial post.]

ISO fell down and went boom, too. Microsoft pushed through the OOXML proposal. Doesn’t matter that no one can implement it, and perhaps no one might even want to implement it… Microsoft Office is no longer barred from governmental purchase because it’s not a politically-mandated “open standard”. Circus all around on that one.

Put those two items together and it gets really silly… Microsoft saying “ooh ES4 is too hard for us to implement” (despite it being already deployed to over 90% of consumer machines today!), then pushing through “an open standard” that even they can’t implement. Just business, not personal.

Anyway, for in-the-browser delivery, it’s still “Flash Just Works”. I can understand that committed .NET developers might want to believe otherwise, and those heavily invested in cross-browser JavaScript 1.x frameworks might want to believe otherwise, but no amount of bloviation changes the basics. Adobe Flash Player provides universal publishing capability, and truly rapid evolution atop that. The Adobe Integrated Runtime is bringing this beyond-the-browser, to trusted Internet apps. Flash Just Works.

And people do indeed like live video communications. The trend’s our friend.