How Times Have Changed for Flash Video

    December 20, 2006

I’ve been digging around on a few technology websites and came across a few interesting articles, some from way back (who remembers CNET’s Talk to us live series, courtesy of FCS? This was cutting edge back then. Check out the christmas countdown: -726 days left LOL).

This article on ZDNet from 2003 talks about Macromedia’s plans to push Flash Video as a technology and how streaming video has just been added to the Flash Player. Remember, Flash Communication Server 1.0 was released in 2002 pretty much alongside Flash MX – which incidentally also introduced the ability to embed video content directly into Flash. Embedding never took off and rightly so as it was riddled with problems such as audio sync issues, tricky to update and massive SWF files.

It’s interesting how in that article a guy called Richard Doherty points out how Flash as a media format is still running well behind Windows Media, RealPlayer and Apple’s QuickTime. “They’re still paying catch-up way behind Real,” he said.

Way behind Real… it’s 2006 and here I sit wondering if there’s anybody not in front of Real right now.

You would have thought that a few years later in 2005 Flash Video would have been more widely accepted. Another ZDNet article was published previous to the Flash 8 release. In mid 2005, Flash Video ” could make it a significant threat to Microsoft’s Windows Media technology, RealNetworks’ Real format and Apple’s QuickTime”. Hear hear. Not only that but “it could cause Real, Apple and Microsoft some concern since it will evolve into a competitive platform for streaming video.” Word.

It comes as no real (no pun intended) surprise then that Real’s senior VP of media for Real Networks was quoted in that article with the prase “Flash doesn’t have digital rights management, and studios care about DRM. We are focused on intellectual property that has value, where DRM matters. Flash is fine for ads, but none of the studios are going to do this.”

I can’t help but smile at this… This is such a naive view today and it already was in 2005. ‘Intellectual property that has value’… does that mean if it’s not got DRM it has no value? Hmm not quite right is it, at least Google was more than happy to pay short of a couple of billion dollars for a Flash Video portal named YouTube.

Don;t get me started in DRM, but if Real wants to live in the past then all the better for Flash. Wooosh, that was Flash Video in the fast lane, wizzing past Real which seems to have had a breakdown back at the last junction.

Microsoft of course had to have their say too and boldly stated that “Flash is receiving some good uptake on the Internet today, it has limited applications beyond short form, streamed content”. Aight, whatever. If reaching every user in every corner of the net is limited then that’s fine by me. How Microsoft’s own approach isn’t limited is beyond me as every Mac user will confirm.

So in 2005, Flash Video was starting to eat away at the market…

Now here we are in 2006 – almost 2007 – and times truly have changed. Flash Video is just about everywhere (Tom Green has written a good article on this topic – The Rise of Flash Video) and it has certainly claimed many online landmarks for itself. Granted, there’s still some work to be done when it comes to offline playback and downloadable formats but I am sure Adobe will keep these shortcomings in mind for future releases of Flash, Flex and the upcoming Apollo runtime.

Overall I think it’s fair to say that 2006 was the year of online video, and Flash Video in particular. What’s around the corner? If Adobe have their way then Apollo will be on everyone’s desktop come 2008 and I personally predict a rise in Flash’s Live Video capabilities in 2007. Judging by som eof the project requests that are coming in I will definitely concentrate some of my efforts in this area.

On this note let me wish you all a very happy christmas and a successful 2007.



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Stefan is a certified Flash Developer who has been involved with Flash Media
Server since its very early days. From his home office in the UK he has
handled a variety of projects, specializing in Flash Video and Rich Internet
Applications for clients that include CNET, USA Network and Unilever. Stefan
is the author of a series of Adobe Developer Center articles, has spoken at
several industry events and contributes a regular column on Flash Video to
Streaming Media Magazine. His site is one of the
largest online resources on Flash Video.