News And Society

What’s wrong with online videos?

Inspired by the launch of Bud.tv, I took a quick look at what is available in the online video. And the results are, to say the least, disappointing. It’s definitely more complicated than video programming that I can get from my Direct TV dish. How any ordinary person is expected to work with this technology is beyond me. After watching a couple of video sites, I’ve come up with eight different issues:

First of all, I expect YouTube to be as close as possible to the user experience: you find video content on the homepage, click on your choice, and the video starts playing within the current frame of the browser. I don’t want to download any special media player, thank you very much. I already have one of these truckloads running around my hard disk. I don’t want to hunt around searching for videos either – whatever you want to see should be easy to find.

Second, it should only work with my configuration. I don’t want another secondary window to pop up, because I have stopped pop-ups, and I don’t feel like letting your video site go to my whitelist. I don’t want to make any other changes to the configuration of my browser to allow your video to start, as it may break something else or open me up for other uses.

Third, I want to work on any browser and OS I use, but it’s much more than a Windows / IE mix (and when we’re checking, make sure that IE 7. does not break when I use it (to browse my site too). Many of us use multiple browsers on multiple platforms, and we don’t want to boot up a particular PC to see anything. This, of course, is against everything Microsoft and Apple do.

Fourth, I want a simple and easy way to “email this video to a friend.” Part of the fun of watching online videos is sharing them with 100 of your closest friends. That said, I want an element of confidence that you, as the owner of the site, will not sell all these emails to any spammer in Moldova.

Fifth, I don’t want to take extreme measures to deal with your registration system just to get your video. Life is too short, I already have too many passwords to deal with? , And I can go anywhere else to get video content anyway, so why bother trying to get through any gates you have in my way?

Sixth, I don’t care if the content is copyrighted. I know, it’s an innovation for a person to make someone’s life come alive, but I think a short three minute clip is a good use. Get over it, you’re a mainstream media mogul, and be happy that someone cares enough to record and post a clip promoting your show. When you download a full two-hour feature film, of course there are various issues involved, but I’m talking about using short pieces of content here.

Seventh, if you are going to stream, then do it with the right amount of caching so that the audio is not cut and the image does not rotate. And if you’re going to download something for me, the download shouldn’t take longer than watching the original clip. But I prefer streaming, because I don’t want to clutter up my hard disk with videos that I don’t watch more than once.

Finally, I want to see more than a stamp-sized window. I don’t need to have full screen, DVD quality, but it’s definitely nice to see at least something that’s close to filling my screen. Right now it’s mostly a bandwidth issue, and most sites – including YouTube – don’t show that big picture.

Carrying all of these things together makes for a long order for most of today’s web videos. YouTube only meets more or less all of the criteria, which is why the site has followed suit and why it has received so many Google Books. Let’s take a look at some other people and see where they are lacking.

Netflix has announced that it will soon begin streaming videos to its users, and I have yet to see for myself. But as a very satisfied customer, I wish them well. They are looking for the best video in the business, and they have the right idea for the rest of the user experience. I hope they shed light on it.

Our hometown industry project in St. Louis, Bud TV, uses a special player in a pop-up that they got from the Akamai / Nine system. (A treat for that.) It has a fairly large registration system that actually checks my history against a national database (January 1 is not used as my default entry, which I recommend confusing ID theft because of). They try to make sure you’re over 21, but I don’t see any content that I’m not willing to share with my teenage daughter on the site. People are already complaining about the problems, and I would predict that they will end this system very soon.

Bud.tv also drops down in search – you scroll through a horizontal channel bar that is now quite short but once you visit the site it won’t do much. I don’t think a lot of users will tolerate this method for too long, and either won’t come back or just go back to one or two channels that resonate with them (TriggerStreet.com short films only). There were great achievements for me). They stream all their videos, and the sound is muted many times over my DSL connection. This site has just been launched this week, I can’t say I’m coming again and again.

An example of a video site I won’t go back to is Cinema. They need IE, download their own player and usually it’s painful for me.

One video series I’m really enjoying is Amanda Kangdon on ABCNews.com. I’m seeing it on iTunes, because it was very difficult to find content using web bookmarks. So right now I’m breaking some of my rules, but I consider my iTunes to be a state of pre-existing software. The weekly videos are about five minutes long, and Kangdon is beautiful, funny, and informative in the same way. Downloads are in the background (an advantage to iTunes as your player) and the quality is first-rate, as you’d expect from a TV network.

So as you can see there is a way to get to us before the online video is as easy as flipping a button on a remote and watching normal TV. Well, maybe we’re going to cross. It’s not easy to get my direct TV remote to activate and remove all the entertainment devices in my room, and I don’t have to do all that my wife wants me to do. Not all of those browser video plugins are bad.

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