Who needs war?

How does web video work? You’ve got a video file, compressed as On2 VP6 or VP8 or H.264 or whatever. You’ve got some type of interface layer, whether a standalone Real or QuickTime controller, or a Flash-based UI (OSMF, custom, etc). You’ve also got some markup in the HTML page to invoke the whole thing (OBJECT/EMBED, VIDEO). Then you’ve got any backend services, such as adaptive streaming, random access, access controls, clustering, advertising integration, analytics services, annotation layers.

Basically four parts: the compressed linear video itself, the user controls, the invoking markup, and any backend work.

Techmeme’s frothy again today about a blogpost from a firm which indexes videos hosted on a set of video sites. The followup headlines are rather dramatic, but here’s what was measured: “Our final tally included only video that can be delivered within HTML5’s ‘video’ tag. In the vast majority of cases, this means videos were encoded in H.264.”

From what that reads to me, and from checking the graph’s caption, it sounds like the core idea is “Across a range of video-hosting sites, 54% of the H.264 files which had a SWF-based UI also make some use of the VIDEO tag.” (open to correction)

If so, that’s reasonable… Apple’s devices have dominated the press the past year, and the world’s existing H.264 content would be invisible to that new audience without using the VIDEO tag. Considering the marketing pressure, it’s surprising this isn’t higher.

But some of the blogposts with takeaways like “Apple wins the Web” and “Victory in HTML5 war” just are over-the-top — particularly when they’re still confusing a codec (usually H.264 among these folks) with a presentation format (usually Flash).

There’s also still confusion between the VIDEO tag and a codec… Firefox and Opera are very popular on desktop and mobile, but their VIDEO tag does not equate to H.264.

“54 percent of Web video is now compatible with HTML5″… what could that mean? It seems more a phrase about branding than technology. Branding needs wars, technology doesn’t.

The reality is that we humans are gaining _far_ more communicational abilities with video now… screens on the desk, screens in the pocket, screens on the wall. What we choose to watch will be “out there”, available to all our screens. We expect to have a consistent personal experience with what we watch, regardless of the current device.

We’ll also need a diversity of backend services to create a consistent personal experience across screens, to connect those screens.

Finding ways to bring about sustainable ecologies in these new technologies… that’s more interesting and useful than a lot of the talk out there these days.

Different parts to “online video”… a compressed video file, the interface used to control it, the markup used to invoke it, and any backend services in use. They work together. Creating wars among them is more an exercise in branding than anything real.