TED Joins the Online Video War

Posted on: March 28, 2010
Posted in Strategy

TED Joins the Online Video War

As the battle for HTML-5 vs Flash plays out something interesting is happening in online video. Sites are proactively converting videos to H.264 for use on mobile devices.

Today, Chris Anderson of the much lauded (or hated if you weren’t invited) TED.com sent this Tweet showingthat videos are now available in H.264 for the iPhone. You can bet that the timing of this announcement is not coincidental (one week before the iPad).

This shift is rendering meaningless a lot of the Flash debate, which centers around whether users can access video content from mobile devices (iPhone primarily). Sure there are other uses of Flash (banner ads etc) but video is the big one.

As background, YouTube has been migrating videos for the iPhone since shortly after its debut in 2007, but converted videos remain a small percentage of YouTube’s collection.

Posterous (the startup that runs this blog) has one of the more advanced implementations I’ve seen. When you upload a video to Posterous from your iPhone (stored in H.264) it’s immediately converted to Flash for playback. However, Posterous also stores an H.264 version for people who access your blog from a mobile phone. This versioning does not come cheap (they are storing 2 copies of every video) so the fact that they do this to support mobile is a big deal.

You can see what I am talking about by playing the above video that I took (amazing dance moves!) from both your PC and from an iPhone if you have one.

Vimeo, which is sort of like a higher-end YouTube, also works from your iPhone, because they have support for H.264 videos similar to how Posterous does.

Ted, Posterous, Vimeo etcare huge for the iPad, since videos will be ready from day one. Hulu hasn’t committed to convert yet, but there is talk about it.

In the early 2000’s Microsoft worked to bundle Flash (Macromedia at the time) w/ Internet Explorer as a way to weaken QuickTime’s emergence as a video delivery standard (based on MPEG-4 which predated H.264).This early MSFT/Flash alliance formed a lot of the basis for Apple’s initial hatred of Flash, so it’s interesting to see how Apple is using the iPhone (and iPad) as a tool to shift the balance in power away from Adobe. It seems to be working.

  • Anonymous

    i see – thanks for the clarification

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