Is Web Video Ready for an HD Upgrade?

Anyone who has watched YouTube — and who hasn’t — knows that the short-form video that currently breaks up the monotony of a work day simply sucks. The quality of the video shown in tiny windows is maybe okay for giggles, but can get quite tiresome after a few minutes.

Enter HD web video. While some companies, like DivX, have tried to their hand at offering higher resolution web videos, it is still an exotic curiosity. However, that will soon change, mostly due to technical progress being made either in the labs or by some start-ups.

Over the weekend, the news broke that Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak and Clear Communications co-founder Red McCombs invested in a start-up called HotSwap. For now full of car videos, the site was started by UC Berkeley students, and demonstrates their digital compression technology for boosting the quality of online videos.

If companies like HotSwap are attacking the compression technologies, Adobe has taken steps to make Flash HD-happy. (Check out this video to get a better idea of where Flash is headed.)

And while these developments unfold, there are other good reasons to expect better-quality video: the falling prices of video streaming and looming price wars in the CDN business. At present, standard-resolution streaming costs up to 15 cents an hour, but there are P2P hybrids from the likes of CacheLogic that can lower that to 6 cents an hour. CacheLogic is boasting that it can do HD video over regular 6 megabit connections.

“Web video is entering its third era, TV quality,” writes our good friend and broadband pundit, Dave Burstein in his latest newsletter, DSL Prime. “Costs to deliver video are coming down 70-90% over the next 12 months if you can accept a delay of a few seconds.”

I, for one, am happy to dream about higher-quality video. Nothing like Filipino prisoners performing Thriller in near-HD quality!

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