TV and other video media have been adapting to web infrastructure for over a decade, but open standards are needed to ensure widespread adoption.

TV and other video media have been adapting to web infrastructure for over a decade. Netflix is now 18-years-old, and YouTube was founded ten years ago. According to a Nielsen report, the number of American households subscribing to an internet video streaming service has reached 40%, but there is still room for improvement. Video streaming experience has yet to live up to user expectations, let alone go above and beyond those expectations.

Some of the challenges of the current user experience in internet video streaming include the lack of seamless integration between broadcast TV and the web, and the length of time a user must wait before it’s possible to view a desired program. For streaming users, it’s typically necessary to wait well past an air date to view a program of choice, which is undesirable in today’s instant-access economy. A second challenge pertains to broadcasters integrating streaming capabilities into their services. Unfortunately, for a number of reasons (stand-alone solutions, lack of integration with cable services, etc.), these services have not achieved broad adoption because of the disjointed TV/web experiences.

Beyond meeting user expectations, Daniel Davis of W3C believes that, “There are also new ways to enjoy content that the web has the potential to realize, such as multiple simultaneous camera views or customizable synchronization with other online and data services.”

In order to achieve widespread adoption of these services, open standards are needed in the field of web TV. The W3C, an OpenStand affirming partner, is actively at work in this area. Several W3C groups are establishing use cases and requirements, and are addressing standards gaps under the support and purview of the Web and TV Interest Group, chaired by Yosuke Fanahashi of W3C, Giuseppe Pascale of Opera Software, and Mark Vickers of Comcast Cable. This group is embracing the principles of collaboration, effective empowerment, and voluntary adoption and reflect the values of the OpenStand Principles.

According to Davis, some of the needs his group has identified, to date, include:

  • Multi-screen content delivery
  • Stream synchronization
  • TV function and channel control
  • Mixed media sources and content overlays
  • Stream recognition and identification
  • Server-side content rendering (e.g. for low-powered STBs)
  • Improvements to existing features (e.g. adaptive streaming, timed text)

Groups and projects have been mobilized to address these gaps as follows:

  • GGIE (Glass-to-Glass Internet Ecosystem) Task Force: With a goal of “identifying essential elements in digital video’s life cycle and features that would be appropriate for recommendation for standardization in the appropriate SDOs [standards development organizations], not just W3C,” they are currently gathering use cases and facilitating discussion in the interest group.
  • TV Control API Community Group: This group is developing an API to “control TV-like content and features…eventually producing a new standard for media devices, set-top-boxes and of course televisions.”
  • Multi-device Timing Community Group: This newly developed group is focused on synchronization of media streams across the web, opening up some of the unique potential of web viewing vs. traditional one-stream viewing.
  • Media Resource In-band Tracks Community Group: This very standards-focused project is building a spec to define and allow web applications access to in-band informational elements like metadata and captions through the media element itself.
  • Second Screen Presentation Community Group & Working Group: Davis points out that this group has evolved from an idea to a standard. It began as a collaborative proposal brought to W3C to be drafted by stakeholders, which eventually set the foundation for a new Working Group. Today, Davis says, “it’s officially on the standards track and further stabilization should see it implemented and brought to a big screen near you.”

What opportunities for video content distribution and development on the web do you see? What current problems with web video could be solved with further open standards development? Share your thoughts in the comments below!