The video future is here

… just not evenly distributed, as William Gibson almost said.  But it’s just got that little bit more widely distributed.

About six months ago I said that the DRM battle in video hadn’t really got started, and complained about the BBC’s choice of DRM for its iPlayer.   That’s an awfully long time ago in Internet time.

Things have just got a lot better. The BBC has opened up iPlayer for the iPhone and the iPod touch. You just go to the site in Safari and it works!

Even better, as Cory Doctorow points out at Boing Boing, this means that iPlayer content is available in DRM-free versions – all you have to do is change your browser’s user agent string to claim to be an iPhone.   (If you’re interested in the technicalities, Anthony Rose has a great explanation.)

This is a huge step on the way to video being available when and how you want it, in the way we’re getting used to audio being available.

We’ve a long way to go, of course.  Bandwidth is still a bottleneck.  (On the iPhone, you must be on a Wifi network – the phone network won’t work.)  Storage likewise.  And the content is still patchy – most of the programmes on the iPlayer site aren’t (yet?!) available like this, and the BBC is just one source of video.  And the interface isn’t fantastic – you only find out whether a programme is available when you try to play it.

But it’s fantastic to be able to see what are still quaintly called TV broadcasts on my iPod touch, on demand, in impressively high resolution – way better than most YouTube videos.  Strange the effect that new technologies have on you – I’ve never have predicted that I’d be so excited to see Jeremy Clarkson’s ugly mug.

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Author: dougclow

Academic in the Institute of Educational Technology, the Open University, UK. Interested in technology-enhanced learning and learning analytics.

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