Emergence of Video Sharing and Streaming

 User generated videos have been proved to be a very effective mode of communication and training purpose in recent years. These videos help one to understand a certain process efficiently by actually looking at the demonstration, or these videos help common people to connect and watch their loved ones who are residing at far distances and otherwise happen to meet generally after a long gap.

Now, using the technologies which were earlier available during the early era of 90s it was very difficult and was almost impossible to send/share a recorded videos  across the world wide web due to many reasons like the non-availability of sufficient hi-speed bandwidth (56Kbps modem line)that is required to push such large amount of data, unavailability of better encoding and decoding options, non-availability of standard media players which can understand the file formats and many other such infrastructure and logistic issues.

In the later part of 90s people tried to share videos file using “Traditional download” mechanism where users were supposed to click over a link on website and then need to wait for the entire download to finish at a very slow speed (56Kbps Modem – 96 Kbps ISDN) before they could actually playback the file and view the content. Situation was worse when due to some bandwidth fluctuation users get disconnected and then again need to start the file downloading process. It was obviously a tedious process and far enough from an optimum solution for end-users, content publishers as well as content providers together due to many issues, few obvious can be enumerated as below:

  1. Long waiting time for users to actually view the content.
  2. No control over the video file once it is delivered to a consumer.
  3. No failover mechanism.
  4. No content protection.
  5. No control over piracy.

In 1999, the phenomenal popularity of the 2 1/2-minute movie trailer for “Star Wars: The Phantom Menace”—a whopping big 25 MB file at 480×216 resolution (good quality)—was proof that media-hungry Internet audiences are willing to be forgiving of long waits for large files. But if an artist or publisher does not want end-users to be able to save and freely redistribute their media content, the downloadable approach is problematic

 Web-based technologies emerged as a powerful tool of communication and collaboration for people living in the different part of the world in the era after 2000. In this age we had hi-speed bandwidth available (~1200Kbps fast DSL lines or T1/2/3 technologies), efficient video codecs like VP6/7(by On2Spark) or H.264 (MPEG4 Standard10), audio codecs like MP3/AAC were now available that enabled people to record and sufficiently compress video files to travel it across the web. At this point the technology that has been largely used by people and organizations to share video was “Progressive download” mechanism. This technology had enabled the users to playback the file before it completely downloaded. Progressive download allows playback of content that has been received to continue, while the remainder is still being downloaded. Progressive download, therefore, allows the end-user to view the beginning of the file, as the remainder is being downloaded, and to quit the download if the content is not worth the wait. Progressive download has basically gained the enough momentum and was regarded as a highly popularized method of sharing videos. Websites like Youtube.com has given video sharing an entirely new dimension where large number of people were simultaneously able to watch the videos and share their user-generated contents. But, technically it has only drastically reduced the waiting time only but the flaws that were there with “Traditional download” was still remained unchallenged as it was just a simple web-delivery technique. Few of the issues that still has to be addressed were as follows:

  1. No control over the video once it has been delivered to consumer.
  2. No content protection.
  3. No control over piracy.
  4. No quality control.
  5. No insight about end-user experience.
  6. No collaboration options while watching a video content.
  7. No method to deliver real-time broadcasting of events.

So, the middle of 2005 was a time where people don’t only wanted to share the videos but they also wanted to have the rich media experience while watching a program over internet and this demand obviously was not ridiculous as by this time sufficient infrastructure and technology was there in place to broadcast such high-quality videos over internet for a large set of users.

To address all of such kind of issues the new phenomena that emerged in the starting year of 2000 and gain popularity around 2004-05 was “Streaming Approach”.  Streaming approach can be clearly defined by following three primary characteristics combined:

  • Streaming media technology enables real-time or on-demand access to audio, video, and multimedia content via the Internet or an intranet: Streaming technology enables the near real-time transmission of events recorded in video and/or audio, as they happen—sometimes called “Live-Live,” and commonly known as Webcasting. Streaming technology also makes it possible to conveniently distribute pre-recorded/pre-edited media on-demand. In other words, media that is stored and published on the Web in streaming formats can be made available for access at any time.

 

  • Streaming media is transmitted by a media server application, and is processed and played back by a client player application, as it is received: A client application, known as player, can start playing back streaming media as soon as enough data has been received—without having to wait for the entire file to have arrived. As data is transferred, it is temporarily stored in a buffer until enough data has accumulated to be properly assembled into the next sequence of the media stream. When streaming technology was first available, the ability to begin playback before the entire file had been transferred was a distinct advantage. Now, however, pseudo-streaming techniques, such as progressive download, allow some other formats to begin to play before fi le download is completed. So, while the ability to begin playback prior to completing file transfer is a characteristic of streaming, it is not, in and of itself, a differentiating factor.

 

  • A streamed fi le is received, processed, and played simultaneously and immediately, leaving behind no residual copy of the content on the receiving device: An important advantage of streaming media (unlike either traditional or progressive download) technology is the copyright protection it provides. No copy of the content is left on the receiving device. Therefore, the recipient can neither alter nor redistribute the content in an unauthorized manner.

Streaming solution when mixed with the Adobe flash Platform technology (Flash Media Live Encoder, Flash Media Server, OSMF, Flash Access ) it has created wonders in this domain where  at one hand to the consumer-side it enhanced the rich media delivery experience (Flash Player) , to the content-publisher side it has provided an easy way to control and monitor content distribution (DRM) and to the Content distributor side (CDNs like Akamai/Edgecast etc) it has provided the secure protocol and other flash specific defense mechanism. Adobe flash Platform and other technologies had tremendously reduced the application development time with rich media features having capabilities of presenting real-time videos to the subscribers with various kind of collaborative options like real-time chat and interaction, data casting, webcasting. It also helps content producers to monetize and protect their video content over internet. Basically streaming solution has changed the world the way it used to interact using video files from simple sharing to do a lot more and is a big milestone in the direction of convergence.

Regards,

streamIndia@adobe.com

Platform dedicated to Streaming

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