Codecs, caching, and transport are three of the major building blocks required for video compression and delivery.
Each has a unique role. Codecs are at the core of compression and decompression. They’re used to shrink the size of a video-on-demand (VOD) file or lower the bandwidth required to deliver a live stream across the web while still maintaining visual quality. The last two building blocks—transport and caching, the act of storing permanent or semipermanent content closer to the end user— have historically been considered outside the expertise of the streaming industry and more in line with routing and internet architectures.
But that is changing, thanks in no small part to the “Netflix-ification” of the web, as over-the-top (OTT) content continues to rise in popularity and puts stress on both the infrastructure and the delivery methods that the streaming industry has relied on for decades.
Alongside this need to rebuild the web to be more video-centric comes a parallel desire, at least by some— whether they need a working solution now or think they can capitalize on that very need—to escape the confines of standards-based video.
From streaming media’s early days—when codecs such as MPEG-1 faced off with Intel’s Indeo, Microsoft’s Windows Media, and RealNetworks’ RealVideo— there has always been an underlying tug-of-war between standards and advances, between open source and licensing, between one-size-fits-all and customization on a per-use basis.
The flag in the middle of the tug-of-war rope, dangling precariously over the mud pit that awaits the losers, is innovation. If the standards bodies win, with their decision-by-committee mentality that slows or even stops the pace of innovation, then the industry faces periods of time when inefficient technologies fail to keep pace with video consumption growth.
By Tim Siglin
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