This week Google, Intel, Netflix, Cisco, Mozilla, Microsoft and Amazon announced the formation of the Justice League of Internet Video -- also known by its more official, if less incredible, title: the Alliance for Open Media.
In keeping with the best traditions of Internet development, the companies will be pooling their resources to develop a new series of media codecs (compressor/decompressor algorithms, a la HBO’s "Silicon Valley"), which will create an open standard for media, most especially video, on the Web.
Compressing large video files more efficiently uses drastically less bandwidth to deliver the file to a user (though not all compression is equal), whether it be on a computer, mobile or a TV streaming service. Huge bandwidth usage has created a a problem in the mobile video ad space, especially as the mobile Web makes a bit of a rebound.
Historically, it has taken companies five to 10 years to bring previous codecs to the mainstream. An Alliance spokesperson told me the group hoped to do it much faster. Although the Alliance hasn’t even had a kickoff meeting yet (during which, I assume, straws will be drawn to see who has to be Aquaman), 18 months was the number tossed around in various informal conversations.
Sitting where I’m sitting, this is potentially huge for mobile — not because of 4K smartphone streaming, which is flashy and cool, but a little unnecessary — but because it can be help developing countries where smartphone use is exploding. With better open standards, users everywhere can get watchable video.
It might not be as exciting as smartphones with crystal-clear video streaming capabilities, but it’s a step that opens up video streaming and advertising to essentially anyone with a smartphone and a minor data plan.
While much of the conversation about the next gen of Internet video is going to revolve around the higher end of things -- 4K vs 8K, 4K cameras on smartphones, etc .-- it’s easy to forget that technological advancements make today’s best stuff available to everyone tomorrow.
With two billion predicted smartphone users next year, that’s a whole lot of people watching video.
This column was previously published in Moblog on September 3, 2015.