Tip: Keep an eye on OSMF

Summary: If you help people make choices in web technology, then it would likely be profitable to get the new Open Source Media Framework onto your personal radar now. OSMF is an industry-wide collaborative effort to make it easier, faster, cheaper and more reliable to developer advanced video interfaces for desktop and mobile.

How we got here: Real Networks started web video in 1997, before Apple and Microsoft expanded The First Codec Wars from CD-ROM to Web… in 2002 the ubiquitous Macromedia Flash cross-browser extension added video, and although fragmentation remained an issue for awhile, people like Jens Brynildsen clearly saw the trend… by 2005 phenomena like YouTube started showing how useful and popular play-on-demand video could be.

Popularity of web video has exploded since then… demand has gone viral. Meanwhile feature requests have increased too, from download-and-play to progressive streaming to live streaming to adaptive streaming to rights-management to advertising revenue to analytics to DVR functions to multi-feed to social annotations to… the list goes on. Content providers needed to continually reduce their increasing delivery costs, while the complexity of serving the video also increased.

How to reconcile delivery costs and feature costs? One tack has been to move to ordinary HTTP servers, rather than dedicated media servers. But this requires that much of the “smarts” in a dedicated media server be replicated in the client for a cheaper HTTP server. This increases development costs. But the Open Source Media Framework is designed to slash those development costs — tapping into the whole industry for best practices for a clientside presentation layer, making a framework which all stakeholders can expand.

Check out this June 10 post from Kevin Towes… he gives a deeper overview of the feature requirements and the trends. Then read Greg Hamer’s Devnet article on how to approach OSMF. Click on some of the links that interest you. After reading both these essays you’ll have a much clearer view of where video growth is going than will most of the other people who might advise your friends.

I think OSMF will be very useful in the real world. Lots of producers are now figuring how to minimize “The iPad Tax” of multiple deployment paths, and OSMF workflows will naturally integrate with the most efficient solutions. When large numbers of browsers start supporting the VIDEO/H.264 and VIDEO/VP8 approaches, the “HTML5″ UIs will likely integrate or parallel the OSMF methodologies to tap into its broader ecology. Mobile delivery adds multiple complexities, and OSMF efforts are explicitly designed to deal with them. And, at the leading edge, the community approach of OSMF will just make it easier to deliver better features, cheaper. Just as with Jens’ piece back in 2003, the trends are clear if you look at them.

Anyway, that’s my pitch… if you ever advise people about video at all, then spending a few minutes now examining the full release of the Open Source Media Framework will guarantee your video expertise into the future…. ;-)