Jeremy Allaire, the founder of the online video platform Brightcove, has written an open letter to the consumer electronics industry, calling for it to back open standards for online video distribution. Without this, he argued, the current convergence of the internet and television is a wasted opportunity and will be dead on arrival.
Together with Adam Berrey, who heads up marketing and strategy at Brightcove, he said that the consumer electronics and internet industries already have well-established standards bodies and that it is time they take up challenge of creating open standards for browsing and streaming online media directly to televisions.
In an open letter published on the Brightcove web site, they observed that internet television is already transforming how people are entertained, educated and informed, becoming a clear rival to cable, satellite, and terrestrial broadcast.
The amount of video available on the open internet exceeds any prior platform, they wrote. Hundreds of millions of videos, from user-generated clips content, to the best of blockbuster broadcast television are now available instantly and on demand through the internet.
The personal computer is currently the main device used to find and watch that programming, but it could be the television. They said this opportunity is being squandered for both the industry and consumers by the failure of consumer electronics manufacturers to embrace an open standard for delivering internet video directly to televisions.
Strategies such as Windows Media Center extenders and Apple TV are too complicated for the typical television viewer and are fundamentally closed, with each device using different standards, so there is no consistency of formats and user experience. They said the failure to embrace open standards means that no ecosystem can flourish around the technology.
“The solution is an industry standard that allows TV sets to join PCs and mobile phones as first class citizens on the open internet,” they said. “We need a set of open standards that make it straight forward and easy to connect any TV to the internet, browse and find video, and watch on-demand streams from anywhere in the world.”
They argued that this should be based around four main areas: direct network connections, an internet media browser, catalogue publishing, and registration services.
An internet media browser would enable consumers to browse through any media catalogue published on the internet and enable them to play audio and video using standard compression schemes, including Flash, H.264 and VC-1.
Consumer electronics manufacturers “need to wake up and get on the bandwagon,” said the authors. “Stop focusing on closed systems and help to usher in a new era in open internet video distribution that can touch every television set on the planet,” they wrote. “Opening television to the internet will let content publishers do what they do best, give consumers a vastly better experience than they have today and ultimately drive growth in the consumer electronics industry.”
The approach advocated by Brightcove is evidently sound, but with so much at stake the vested interests of major manufacturers and media distributors continue to conspire against the consumer to produce overly complicated closed platforms.
With its forthcoming media player, Adobe is perhaps closest to the open model proposed by Jeremy Allaire. He was previously chief technology officer for Macromedia before its acquisition by Adobe. Brightcove has gone a long way towards establishing an open ecosystem for online video distribution, but clearly needs the broader support of the industry to benefit from open standards.