Internet Video: Streaming vs. Downloadable Content

I’m an avid listener of the This Week in Tech network of podcasts, and one subject that seems to be continually brought up (for obvious reason) is that of the delivery of media content via the internet. For example, on Net at Nite, streaming video via services like YouTube are always topics of conversation, while some of the more tech heavy shows often seem to prefer delivery services which have the user actually download a large video file of some sort to their hard drives before reaching their ultimate destination of TiVo, iPod, etc.

Up until even recently, this would have been a non-issue because IPTV has yet to become standard or mainstream. With the advent of some of the lower models of iPods including video, now making the feature pretty much standard, video content is readily available to a larger and mass user base of audiences who may now seek out such material. Whereas popular and continually updating shows such as DiggNation or Ask A Ninja might have been previously optimized for flash streaming, it’s now ready to be consumed by a much larger audience that can see the shows while on commute.

But there’s a push-pull problem that will have to be solved before IPTV can really take off like it has been forecasted to. Namely, that problem is YouTube. I realized this problem while searching for some video content that I have that haven’t watched in a long time. I had a Quicktime version of some of the latter season of Star Wars: Clone Wars, and couldn’t find it on my hard drive. It turns out that I didn’t have it on my hard drive at all and had saved it to CD during one of my system restores. I supposed that I didn’t have a need to have a higher quaility and local version of these files, because frankly anything that I would want to see, I would be able to see it on YouTube. Not that there’s any particular problem with YouTube itself. It’s an awesome platform that is doing for video what Napster did for audio. (Take that as you may, but the similarities are there.) In fact, it’s doing more. It’s also allowing for the users to also be the broadcasters. Without YouTube, there’d be no Chad Vader. The thing is that basic consumers of content have been trained to expect to have video streamed and not downloaded. Of course, there’s always iTunes and Torrents, but this has largely been exclusive to a segment of the audience which has a higher degree of technical expertise. As for your average kid or lady in the office, YouTube is the way to go for video content delivery mostly because of the fact of how simple it is. You can watch Lazy Sunday anytime you want to, despite the fact that you don’t have the actual file.

Yes, I do realize that there’s YouTube on a mobile platform via the iPhone, but that really isn’t a realistic option enough for it to be accessible to everyone. Nor is it one that will make it throughout the whole iPod family. And further still, it would remain exclusive to Apple and Google in all probability. For IPTV to really work, it’s going to take a simplification of the iTunes software and an effort to educate the public at large on podcasting and IPTV. It has progressed, but it’s going to take a little more work. The average end consumer is going to have to realize that there’s no real effort involved in subscribing to and syncing continually updating video and audio content. In blunt, it has to be as simple as turning on the TV and changing the channel. Which really, is basically what YouTube has become.

But with so many nationally broadcasted outlets such as NPR and NBC promoting audio and video content such as this, we’re probably already headed in the right direction. (But Apple is really going to have to take it a step further by also making it easier for content producers to submit to the iTunes store. As of now, it’s a pain to make RSS and such compliant to their standards.) Sooner or later, the techies in each social circle will show everyone how simple it is, akin to YouTube. And once that’s done, libraries of localized video content should again begin to form just the same as it was before the Age of YouTube. Not that there isn’t a place for it, but perhaps it’s time for the YouTube fad to begin to fade and find it’s permanent place as an alternative and quick way of viewing content. With hard drive and iPod storage space getting larger and cheaper at the same time, there’s really no need to stream anymore. You’d have thought we’d have progressed beyond that with the practical death of Real.

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