Open Industry Standards For Audio & Video On The Web
One of the key drivers in making audio and video distribution possible via the internet is the great advances in compression technologies (codecs). Obviously, broadband adoption and ever more capable PCs and mobile devices helped a lot - but in the end, it has been the codecs that have made the real difference.
Looking back over the last decade, the advances in this space were mainly driven by strong competition between software companies. Each had its own motivations for creating proprietary codecs and file formats that lock in customers. Besides the obvious downside of that approach, there were some benefits as well: fast innovation and attractive terms and conditions from a licensing perspective.
Having said that, the BBC has always been a strong advocate and driver of open industry standards. Without these standards, TV and radio broadcasting would simply not function. I believe that the time has come for the BBC to start adopting open standards such as H.264 and AAC for our audio and video services on the web. These technologies have matured enough to make them viable alternatives to other solutions.
The advantage for the audience will be a noticeable improvement in audio and video quality. Furthermore, it should become easier for the media to simply work across a broader range of devices. While it's not a magic bullet, it certainly is a significant step in the right direction. The first service to make content available using these open standards based codecs will be iPlayer. Anthony Rose will have more details of introducing H.264 to the iPlayer later today. It is our intention for other AV services across bbc.co.uk to follow quickly.
Some people may ask: why are you not using your own Dirac codec? I am fully committed to the development and success of Dirac, but for now those efforts are focused on high-end broadcast applications. This autumn, we intend to show the world what can be achieved with these technologies.
This is a rather important moment for me personally. Having been responsible for driving one of those proprietary alternatives, it feels great to be at the forefront in driving the next wave in internet audio and video technologies and services.
Erik Huggers is Director, BBC Future Media and Technology.