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The Browser & the Business User

Posted By: Jay Brooks on March 3rd, 2015

Browser & Business User

Recently Chrome discontinued support of the Apple Quicktime plug-in.  While the internet at large didn’t even blink, business users - in particular video centric businesses - experienced considerable heartburn over the issue.  I read a statistic that stated less than 2.5% of the sites on the web used the quicktime plug-in.  Ok, that seems plausible but is that an accurate or qualified measurement?  Drilling into that statistic reveals that those 2.5% happened to be the video content producers.  Apple’s format of choice and the most popular internal format of vast number of video content producers is still MOV.  Furthermore, “sites on the web” doesn’t account for the countless MAM and DAM systems that have relied on the QT plug-in as it’s been an internet staple for over a decade.

The net result of killing the QT plugin on Chrome was that 30% of video content producers lost a key piece of functionality in their online media platforms.  This in turn has forced a re-thinking of video for the web.  This brings up a larger issue - when browsers make sweeping changes and decisions based on general consumers (non-business users) they tend to ignore the business impacts of these changes - without which there would be no content on the web, no monetization and no underlying engine to power the internet.  Every time a browser releases a new version that discontinues, changes behavior or modifies existing functionality it sets in motion a Rube Goldberg machine at every cloud-based software company around the globe (well at least the ones paying attention).  With a major browser release, all bets are off.  All previous testing and QA efforts are largely nullified and the QA cycle begins a new… such is life in the software world.  This all begs the question - do business users even get factored in to these decisions?  Probably not it would seem.

In the end, change is good - in fact it’s great for ushering in newer standards and better technologies.  In the case of the QT player issue, this just happened to coincide with some positive developments in the Mozilla (Firefox) world.  At the beginning of 2015, Firefox released a new version that supports MP4 video in the native HTML5 player.  What?  Seriously?  Yes…  What does this mean?  In short it means MP4 won and that HTML5 video is actually a REAL/VIABLE solution now.  HTML5 video has been hyped as the standard for video on the web for the last several years.  Unfortunately, until now it has been had all the excitement of a dud firecracker - a dull pop and fizzle.  Every browser had their own video format requirements (MP4, WebM, OGV) and to support an HTML5 player you had to maintain at least 3 versions of your video file - tripling storage, complicating encoding and just being a general pain in the a**.  Video centric products rejoice, HTML5 video is now an option - with just one format needed to play across all browsers and platforms.  While the conversion of your old video formats can be painful, ultimately it’s all for the better.

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