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Streaming Standards for Worship

Dec 14, 2011 12:07 PM, By Jan Ozer

What you need to know about HTML5, Flash, and DASH.


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If you produce streaming video in the worship market and have your ear to the ground, you may be experiencing sensory overload right now. HTML5 is being promoted as a panacea for all plug-in-related woes; Adobe threw the mobile market into turmoil by ceasing development of the Flash Player, and there’s a new standard called DASH that supposedly will create a unified approach for adaptive streaming to all connected devices. Seems like getting that sermon out over the Internet has gotten a lot more complicated.

Well, maybe not. In this article I’ll describe what’s actually happening with HTML5, Flash, and DASH, and make some suggestions as to how to incorporate these changes into your video-related technology plans.

About HTML5

Let’s start with HTML5, which has one potential show stopper for many houses of worship: the lack of a live capability. Apple has a proprietary technology called HTTP Live Streaming that you can use to deliver to iDevices and Macs but not Windows computers. So if live video is a requirement, HTML5 is out—at least for the time being.

If on-demand video is your sole requirement, HTML5 is a tale of two marketplaces: desktops and mobile. By way of background, HTML5-compatible browsers don’t require plug-ins like Flash or Silverlight to play web video. Instead, they rely on players that are actually incorporated into and shipped with the browser. Integrating video into a webpage for HTML5 playback uses a simple tag rather than a complicated text string to call a plug-in.

Today, the installed base of HTML5-compatible browsers on desktop computer is only around 60 percent, which makes it an incomplete solution, particularly for houses of worship whose older parishioners may be technology laggards who don’t quickly upgrade to new browsers. However, in the link that you use to display your video, it’s simple to query the browser used by the viewer to test for HTML5-playback capabilities. If the viewer’s browser is HTML5-compatible, the video will play in the HTML5 player. If not, you can code the page to “fall back” to the existing Flash Player or other plug-in, which will then load and play normally. While this sounds complicated, Flash fallback is totally transparent to the viewer and occurs in just a millisecond or two.

Why HTML5 first? Because as we’ll see in a moment, this is a very solid strategy for supporting Apple and Android devices. However, before jumping in, keep in mind that HTML5 is not as mature as Flash in several important respects. First, it lacks true streaming, or the ability to meter out video as it’s played, which is more efficient than progressive download. HTML5 also can’t adaptively stream or dynamically distribute multiple streams to your target viewers to best suit their connection speed and CPU power. It’s these two issues that the aforementioned DASH standard hopes to address.



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