Online Video, Three Stories

by Charles Miller on January 11, 2006

Story one:

It's the morning (Sydney time) after the Steve Jobs Macworld keynote. The streaming video of the event has been put online, and your humble narrator decides to watch it before going to work.

About twenty minutes into viewing the keynote, the rest of the world discovers the stream, and despite the best efforts of the edge-server network, the video becomes choppy and unreliable. Three or four minutes later it stops working entirely, and the video can only be watched in twenty second chunks, followed by a minute or two of rebuffering, clicking and swearing.

Story two:

It's morning (Sydney time) after the Steve Jobs Macworld keynote, and the video of the event has just been put online for download. Your humble narrator starts the download just after he wakes up, then goes to have a shower, make a cup of tea and make breakfast.

After the first twenty minutes of the video has downloaded, everyone else discovers the video, and download speed starts to slow to a crawl. Charles finishes his toast, and decides to copy however much of the video has finished downloading by the time he leaves to his Powerbook, and watch it on the way in to work.

Story three:

It's morning (Sydney time) after the Steve Jobs Macworld keynote, and the video of the event has just been put online for download under a Creative Commons license (attribution, no derivitive works, no commercial use). By the time your humble narrator wakes up, the video has already been converted into a torrent.

The download starts slowly, but after a while more and more people start to discover the torrent, and thanks to the multiplicative effect of peer-to-peer sharing, it soon comes close to saturating Charles' 14Mbit ADSL link. By the time he finishes breakfast, he has the whole thing downloaded. He leaves the torrent running in the background as a courtesy to others who might want the file.

Now: rank these three stories in order of how much they benefit Charles in that he gets to watch the video in the most convenient form, and how much they benefit Apple (weighing the loss of absolute control over the content vs the largely promotional message reaching consumers in a less frustrating manner).

Kevin Marks is right. When interaction is not required, downloading is always better than streaming. (and on a video blog post here)

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