The last ten years have seen tremendous growth in online streaming. Early on it was Windows Media Encoder, then Silverlight and Flash Media Encoder. There was also Real Server, for people who operated their own Content Delivery Network (CDN). None of them solved the real issue of ubiquitous streaming to any device. Sure you could get these streaming engines to talk to various devices (IOS, Android, etc.) but only with the proper add-on software such as the Puffin or Photon browsers. This was cumbersome and in some cases downright obnoxious for end users to decide if they wanted to pay for these special apps to watch broadcasts or suffer relentless ads in your face.
This has changed. It has changed because the elephants in the room, Google, Apple and Adobe had begun to unravel their relationships a few years ago. Flash became, for a while the easiest solution to implement for many content producers who simply wanted to stream their content without worrying about their particular CDN. Almost all CDN’s supported Flash and almost all desktop computers ran the free Flash player which supported a variety of desktop applications. It was a fairly easy transition for everyone.
The demise of Flash has accelerated recently as a streaming delivery solution. Google is not updating their Chrome browser to support Flash natively anymore. Others are soon to follow. Things will begin to break. That plus the increased influence of live streaming on both Google and Facebook and other streaming services is helping to drive this movement away from Flash. The movement is towards something that is both a “standard” as well as supporting virtually every desktop and mobile application with the native browsers on all devices. It is called HTML5.
This may sound like a panacea for content producers and streamers. It may well be in time, but free to use it not in the lexicon for people who wish to stream using a CDN other than the social media channels (FB, Google, etc). Those social media channels own the content you produced because you used their services to broadcast it. With few exceptions, producers who wish to control where people go to view a live broadcast and thus better control the surrounding messages are not well served by the social media channels
The social media channels monetize their streaming offerings by ad placement on the same page as the live video window. This might be fine for the casual social networking user, but is inappropriate for corporate and government producers who do not wish to compete with or tolerate ads they do not control, even if the ads do not contain offensive materials.
HTML5 offers content producers a means of delivering content to all devices, but the transition to HTML5 requires some time and decision making based upon your current and future planned usage. While CDNs will continue to offer to stream your content, in many cases you must now pay for the video player that resides on your servers. Two metrics seems to be emerging for payment, one is bandwidth based. How many GB per month will you stream? The other is Hits/Visitors based. How many visitors will you have in a given month? Mind you that this cost is only for the player. The video player vendors track your usage and bill accordingly. The CDN costs are on top of that. The third option is to have the CDN host the player for you. You will pay a bit more for this type of service, but the player which detects what device you are using and sends the appropriate stream is pushed from the CDN servers. Nothing is free anymore.
About the Author:George Hall Founder/President of VideoSSC. He has over 30 years’ experience as a high technology engineering executive. With significant experience in high performance computing, Military electronics, IP networks and Video Broadcasting. Board member Public Television. An author and frequent guest on technology programs and panels. He holds a BA in mathematics from Hillsdale College.