Watch their lips. If they’re moving…
(Apologies if this auto-played; I had inconsistent results with different browsers. Embedding Daily Show links is harder than it should be.)
> Embedding Daily Show links is harder than it should be
Every single thing about online video is harder than it should be. In 1996 you just put an embed tag up with an MPEG1 file in it, and the browser picked which plugin to use to display that content (QuickTime or Windows Media).
Then Microsoft Internet Explorer started requiring object ID tags, which required developers to specify what plugin would play the content — which sucked because you had to guess what plugins your visitors were using, even though things worked fine previously, letting the browser figure things out.
This was during the browser wars, where Netscape and Internet Explorer competed by offering proprietary HTML tags, enabling new formatting tools (HTML was not designed for designing visual interfaces, it was retro-fitted to suit that purpose — the ability to center things, for example, was huge when Netscape introduced the feature!). Microsoft was able to use its anti-competitive position to muscle out competing browsers (Mosaic & Netscape) in a very simple way: Microsoft owned 95% of computer operating systems, put its browser on all of them, and then presented web developers with this proposition: either write HTML to work with Microsoft’s proprietary extensions to HTML — which would work for 95% of computers that came with Internet Explorer pre-installed — or jump through hoops finding creative ways to support other browsers.
When Flash video came out, things were good again in the world of web video (or, at least, better). 95% of browsers shipped with Flash, so putting video in Flash format was generally good enough — it took most of the guesswork out. But Flash has a programing language, and Apple doesn’t want competing API’s for iPads and iPhones ad iPods, so Apple doesn’t support Flash on its mobile devices. As more and more people use mobile devices to get online, this presents a serious compatibility problem. Adobe has announced that it will no longer support Flash for mobile devices.
Which brings us to today’s state of affairs: three co-standards, each backed by a different monopoly. Apple loves h.264, but for commercial uses, it’s proprietary algorithms impose some curious and untested licensing restrictions, so Google doesn’t like it. Mozilla likes Ogg because it’s open source, but Google doesn’t like Ogg because Google invested in WebM. So video on the web now means encoding video in triplicate.
There are not many high-quality encoders out there for Ogg or WebM, creating a sort of chicken-and-the-egg problem that lets Apple’s keep it’s walled garden with h.264, and which creates another, unexamined dynamic: why not just upload you YouTube, and just embed that video. Great. Google owns YouTube, profits from the advertisements and data and demographics it collects from who watches what and when and where. So the confusion is very much in Google’s interest, since it offers a “simple” solution to the complexity it helped create.
Yay, Capitalism! Capitalism makes everything efficient! I love how efficient capitalism makes it when I have to encode my video in triplicate!
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