[qi:032] Dave Winer wrote a poignant post this week about President-elect Barack Obama’s interview on “60 Minutes,” prompting me to actually go to the CBS web site in search of the most-watched “60 Minutes” episode…ever. It was hard to find the video on CBS.com, and only after I searched for it on Google did I end up at CBSNews.com, where the video interview — along with a full transcript — is available. That alone was an annoying experience, though the viewing experience got worse with time.
The interview was engaging, illuminating and informative — a throwback to a classic style of journalism that has been largely lost in this era of sound bites and bombastic proclamations and the drone-like newscasts on cable TV channels. But the viewing experience was ruined by a video that would stop, freeze and restart every so often.I did the speed check on my broadband connection and also checked if my wireless router was working properly — it all looked good. Beyond this, it could have been one of many problems — network congestion on my ISP’s network, congestion in the intercity networks, or perhaps CBS’s content delivery network wasn’t up to snuff. Or maybe CBS’s servers were simply overwhelmed by the demand for the Obama interview.
One way or another, it’s not just a CBS problem; problems like this can be found on almost all services — including YouTube, even despite having the unfair advantage of being hosted on Google’s infrastructure. There are too many points of failure when it comes to web video. These problems are only going to increase in the near future as more and more of us are going to watch more and more video online. According to a study by IBM, nearly 76 percent of consumers surveyed said that they watch video on their personal computers, indicating that watching videos on the web is quickly becoming as mainstream an activity as sending emails and instant messages.
And yet we continue to have a marginal experience with web videos. There is a lot of talk about offering HD-like videos on the web, but if the networks and the infrastructure can’t really deliver that experience seamlessly, then we have a problem.