The future is omni-platform. It’s visual content on mobiles, on desktops, and on TVs. It’s not tied to any one distribution platform, either, whether that’s iTunes (which bizarrely managed to co-opt the open RSS format for its own, with iTunes-specific tweaks), or things like the Xbox.
And the future is going to be a huge pain in the ***. Well, okay, it’ll be a pain for someone. Because of the complexities of supporting different platforms, and the fact that, while moving beyond Flash is liberating, it also requires dealing with some of those platform inconsistencies, getting video everywhere is likely to be a development headache. Like any remodeling, life will get worse while the changes are underway, but it’ll be worth it when it’s done.
Working out those complexities is also a huge opportunity for anyone in the video hosting business. After all, sorting out the challenges of embeddable players have long been a big ingredient in the success of services like YouTube, Blip.tv, and others.
Vimeo is way out front at the moment. Having already added support for the HTML5 video tag, Vimeo now offers an embeddable player that promises to work anywhere. To me, the ideal ultimate goal will focus on WebM video on modern browsers (including mobiles, even though Android is getting Flash). But that still requires a lot of work to ensure compatibility, and that’s what Vimeo have begun to do. As they describe it:
The Universal Player is as easy to use as the old embed code, just a lot more compatible. Instead of being a direct link to a Flash player the new Universal Player can automatically detect what kind of device is viewing the video and choose the optimum player based on the device’s capabilities. For example, it will serve mobile video to iPhones and Androids and HD to iPads and Desktops. On other mobile devices it can use the native player of the device or an optimized mobile Flash player with bigger controls. It also allows us to introduce new players as technology changes, potentially allowing us to do things like serve HTML5 to IE9 and WEBM video to Firefox.
But that’s not all Vimeo has been working on. The Universal Player has gotten most of the blog ink, but the features that accompany it may be just as important. A “Watch Later” feature lets you build playlists of videos, so you could, say, devote a half an hour at the end of your day to watching gorgeous independent films with your significant other, instead of those videos getting in the way of getting work done during the day. And Roku compatibility makes it easier to watch those on your lovely flat panel TV instead of huddled around the laptop. Sure, I don’t know a single person who owns a Roku box, but with Google TV and other tech on the horizon (Boxee support, please?), getting video on more sets is a sure bet.
Your mileage may vary with all of this, so readers, let us know how those players are working out for you.
(And Web developers, I’m curious what you think of how Vimeo has pulled this off. I haven’t had time to dig into the code and deconstruct their work yet.)
Details on the Vimeo Staff Blog:
Three New Features: Universal Player, Watch Later and Roku
Blip, YouTube — your move.