Proprietary Past, Open Future

Online audio/video delivery has taken 3 forms to date. Traditional media has largely chosen to use systems from either Microsoft or Real, with a small subset choosing systems from Apple and others. More niche but highly profitable companies have explored sealed Java applets or simple media download over HTTP. All have found their content "leaks" onto private sharing systems, often based on P2P technologies.



By and large however, the proprietary systems - consisting of closed protocols, codecs, players and servers are well known for producing systems that currently deliver the goods as far as online AV delivery is concerned. Even so these systems deal with thousands, not millions.

Proprietary server systems essentially use a mechanism for charging that boils down to audience size. A physical server can handle a fixed maximum number of listeners or viewers. Charging per server essentially penalises popularity.

Increasing the audience to millions from thousands is a 1000 fold increase. Whilst system providers would jump at such a financial opportunity. However, it is not reasonable to increase costs to the license fee payer 1000 fold.

At present, proprietary systems fail to provide the BBC any way of mitigating costs. Open systems based on open standards often replace the early adopted proprietary systems, simply in order to scale. This has been likened to proprietary medicines being replaced by generic drugs over time.

Aspects impacting any new standards would include: agility in adopting new video formats that come into existence every day; ability to switch from streaming to downloading; ability to switch from single source to multiple sources.

Challenge: Open systems for media delivery must made to scale to very large scale unidirectional streaming, or else many of the other visions in this document falter.


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