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A Short History of Video on the Web

A Short History of Video on the Web

In 1998 web video was all about Real Media, which provided the best codecs combined with the best server. Within a few years, Microsoft had moved to the forefront with Windows Media. Apple was also on the move with QuickTime. For many years, these three companies had cornered the web video market. All had their pluses and minuses depending on the type of projects and client requirements. What they all had in common were modern video and audio codecs and the ability to deliver video through progressive download or streaming technologies. What they lacked was an easy way to add rich media and interactivity to the audiovisual experience. Developers were learning to use HTML plus TIME for Windows Media, SMIL for Real, and all the various technologies for QuickTime. None of them provided a perfect solution for delivering web video.

Experience with Flash Video

During the same period Flash became the web standard for motion graphics and interactivity on the web. A painless plug-in installation process made Flash Player practically ubiquitous on desktop and laptop computers. Developers used various approaches to integrate video with Flash. Many used Flash to make players for Windows Media, Real, and QuickTime. Others vectorized video to create an early version of Flash Video. Some began creating the video as vectorized Flash, later exporting the contents to video formats. The need for a fully integrated Flash Video codec soon became apparent.

The Spark codec brought integrated video to Flash. It marked a tremendous first step and was instantly accepted as a new alternative for web video. Our clients now use it to display television promos, music videos, and educational clips.

The New On2 VP6 Codec and How It Differs

Spark had its limitations at first. The limiting factor on quality in web video is the wide variance in download bandwidth among clients. The most important quality for a video codec intended for the web is encoding efficiency—the codec should be able to squeeze the most quality into the smallest possible bit rate. This is especially important when using streaming video. The new On2 VP6 codec brings Flash Video up to speed with the industry leaders in encoding efficiency so that Flash Video projects can keep the bit rate down and the quality up.