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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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DASH stands for Dynamic Adaptive Streaming over HTTP, and it’s an International Standards Organization (ISO) standard that one day may provide standards-based live and on-demand adaptive streaming to a range of platforms—including mobile, desktop, and over the top (OTT) television consoles. It’s a web producer’s dream, since by supporting a single technology, your video can play on all these platforms. The specification enjoys significant industry support, with more than 50 companies contributing to the specification.

Unfortunately, there are some implementation hurdles that may delay or even derail some of this promise. First, at this point, it’s unclear whether DASH will be royalty free. Many companies have contributed intellectual property to the specification. Many companies—such as Microsoft, Cisco, and Qualcomm—have waived any royalties from their contributions, though this is not yet universal. In fact, the current status of DASH in this regard is so uncertain that Mozilla has announced that it’s “unlikely to implement at this time.” Obviously, taking Firefox out of the equation limits the effectiveness of DASH in the HTML5 marketplace.

In addition, while some companies such as Microsoft have publicly announced that they will support DASH once finalized, two critical companies—Adobe and Apple—have not done the same. This isn’t unusual in its own right since neither company typically discusses unannounced products. Still, because these companies dominate the mobile and desktop browser plug-in markets, it’s tough to plot a strategy until you know their intent.

The Bottom Line?

If you’re broadcasting live, HTML5 isn’t an option in the short term. DASH may change things in early 2012, but until we’re certain which platforms will support it and when, you shouldn’t change your existing strategy. For most producers, live broadcasting means one stream (or set of streams) for Flash and another for iOS devices using Apple’s HTTP Live Streaming (HLS). In this regard, Flash should be available for Android devices for the foreseeable future, and Android 3.0 devices should be able to play HLS streams.

For your on-demand streams, it may be time to consider switching over to an HTML5 first with H.264 support with Flash fallback. This is the most efficient mechanism for reaching iOS, Android, and other HTML5-compatible mobile devices while continuing to support legacy desktop browsers.

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