Posts filed under Online Media

Google, On2, HTML5

The typically obscure and technical world of back-end online video processing is having its day in the press today as Google just bought ON2, the makers of the 'VP' line of codecs, one of the two leading encoding standards for web video (H.264 is the other). I realize I have already lost 90% of the audience which is why 'video encoding' is something that belongs in the back-room with the techies. Dan Frommer at Alley Insider is excited about the acquisition.

Dan Rayburn, on the other hand, thinks this is no big deal, because, after all this is just a codec and H.264 is quite well embedded in a lot of sites and devices, so a small drop in royalties or a small improvement in quality by open-sourcing VP8 is not going to drive any real adoption.

Dan R is right on all the short-term implications, but I think there is a bigger, longer-term strategic angle here.

My guess is that Google bought On2 to support new HTML 5 standard. HTML 5 has the ability to natively support video in the browser without having a plug-in like Flash or Silverlight. In the long-term, this is a good thing for the web, but obviously Microsoft (with Silverlight) and Adobe (with Flash) don't love it.

HTML 5 video right now is hindered by the fact that the default open-source video codec (Theora) is, quite frankly, lousy. It is based on VP3, an old ON2 technology that was contributed to the open-source community and is not up to par with modern codecs like VP8 or H.264.

I suspect what you will see is that Google open-sources VP8, not because this will get them an awesome controlling platform but because it will support HTML 5 video and *weaken* Microsoft's or Adobe's ability to be a platform for video.

If you parse this sentence from their announcement they are all but telegraphing this.

Because we spend a lot of time working to make the overall web experience better for users, we think that video compression technology should be a part of the web platform.

At, we think this is overall good news. Over time, encoding and delivery will eventually fade into the background and innovation will be about managing workflow and interactivity with video, because that, ultimately is the promise of web video.

UPDATE: Some good follow-on comments by Tim Siglin here:

Posted on August 5, 2009 and filed under Online Media.


I am watching the #iranelection stream at It is mesmerizing - the #iranelection stream is updating at more than 1 tweet per second right now.

Of course, it is messy, sloppy, repetitive, rumors mixed in with facts, a lot of retweets and it needs better authority, curation and editing tools, but still…

It is like a window into the future has opened. This one of those special moments in technology from which you realize there is no coming back.

If the Iranian protests succeed, Twitter will have been to Iran what fax machines were to Eastern Europe.

The stream is pouring out everything from news, to links to videos, to messages of support, to advice on how to, say, disable a Soviet-era tank or which embassies are or are not taking the injured.

It makes Google News look vulnerable to The Daily Show's question to the NY Times about "Why is 'aged' news is better than real news?".

Google News can’t be any faster than CNN, BBC, NY Times et al and it does not matter how good those organizations are, no individual organization can keep up with this type of mass-produced content.

It is why Larry Page said Google needs sub-second indexing; it is what Borthwick expressed very elegantly about real-time here.

I did not understand real-time a year ago; I understood it intellectually, maybe three months ago (but even then you think: do I really need Techcrunch or even Flight 1549 in "real-time"?)

But watching #iranelection tonight there can be little doubt about the direction in which distribution is irrevocably headed.

Posted on June 20, 2009 and filed under Online Media.

Four NY Taxi Ads

For the last year NY taxis have been showing ads on small TV screens. Unfortunately the ads haven't changed in months, so taking a taxi is an exercise in absolute ad bombardment. Did Taxi TV guarantee a certain number of impressions? Does nobody else want to advertise in taxis? Time will tell.

In the meantime, here are 4 ads that are still bearable on the 500th showing.

First, a super-enigmatic ad from state broadcaster, Russia Today. Works because it is non-obvious.


then, this Smith and Wollensky ad makes me hungry


Peyton Manning going around the US is good for a laugh.


Finally, Shaq playing Scramble...


Posted on February 9, 2009 and filed under Online Media.

Grand Theft Auto and An Incredible Pace

Grand Theft Auto: IV is one of the most anticipated video games of the year (though that is fairly irrelevant to the point I am about to make). It was released Monday at midnight I think and leaked on Pirate Bay the day before., a human edited search engine run by Jason Calacanis has been all over this since either the release or the leak (not made clear).

Their Games team started playing, streaming live to 600 people who were commenting on what they were doing.

As of Tuesday night, they had completed the whole game and were almost done posting screenshots /instructions /cheat codes for every level of the game.

Now you might not care particularly for video games or cheat codes, but the point is about the rate and pace of "new media". In the old days when I played video games, this type of thing came out in paperback and certainly not 18 hours after the game release and for free!


Here is the announcement on Jason Calacanis Blog. How they did it is here.

Posted on April 30, 2008 and filed under Online Media.