Is Brightcove the Next Flash?

jeremy allaire

It was just a few years ago that Adobe’s Flash revolutionized video publishing by enabling media companies to reach a vast number of consumers with a plugin that ensured a consistent rich media experience across multiple operating systems and browsers. Now, Brightcove might be at the forefront of the next revolution of video publishing, as those companies face a new challenge: how to publish video on multiple devices, all of which have different software support and different encoding requirements.

Of course, at the center of both shifts is Jeremy Allaire, who spearheaded the creation of Flash video while CTO of Macromedia. At that time, Flash solved a significant problem for publishers. With its help, it didn’t matter whether you were serving video in Internet Explorer, Firefox or another browser, so long as the Flash plugin was installed, that multimedia experience would be the same regardless of the actual setup.

Now, Allaire says Brightcove is helping to solve a similar problem for video publishers: how to deal with the complexity of publishing video in an ecosystem where the old Flash model of using a single browser plugin for multiplatform video delivery is broken. Thanks to Steve Jobs and Apple’s insistence on not supporting Flash on the iPhone or the iPad, media companies that want to deliver video to those devices need to also be able to support HTML5 and H.264 encoding.

And there are indications that more complexity is on its way. Google is expected to open-source its VP8 video codec later this month, providing an alternative to H.264 and the open-source Ogg Theora codec. With support in Google’s Chrome browser, as well as Firefox and Opera, VP8 could become the codec of choice for the open source crowd. VP8 could also be used for video delivery in Android smartphones and in upcoming Google TV products, which are expected to run on the Android operating system.

But it’s doubtful that Apple will adopt VP8, as the company has already made big bets on H.264 and a recent email from Steve Jobs warns that patent pools might be going after Ogg Theora and other open-source codecs in the future. Microsoft, too, has said it will only support H.264 in the next version of its web browser, Internet Explorer 9.

With that in mind, publishers need to either pick and choose which devices, codecs and plugins they’re going to support, or they need to find a way to deliver to all of them with minimal investment in encoding, delivery and development. In other words, it’s almost like 2004 all over again, when media companies had to choose between serving video in Windows Media Player, RealPlayer or Apple Quicktime — all of which had varying levels of adoption across different operating systems, not to mention varying levels of video quality and usefulness.

Allaire noted in a dinner meeting with the press last night that it was Flash that helped bridge the divide between the different browsers and operating systems back in the day. Ironically, he said, what Brightcove does now is reduce the complexity for video publishers wishing to reach multiple platforms and devices.

So in this new generation of video publishing, it’s not a plugin or the application that will solve the problem of how to reach consumers on various devices, but the publishing platform itself. It’s Brightcove and other video management and platforms like it that will help to drive more video across more devices — and they’ll be doing so whether those devices support Flash, HTML5 video encoded in H.264, Ogg Theora, VP8 or any other codec.

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