On Learning Web-Video Lingo

9/19/2009 2:00 AM Eastern

In the feast of language that’s coming at us from the Web video community, it’s good to have digestive aids.

Put another way: If you, too, recall a moment in the recent past where you nodded knowingly at terms like “flash,” “HTML 5.0,” and “Silverlight,” all the while feeling like a dummy but not wanting to show it, run — don’t walk — to the October issue of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Technology Review (

The Alka-Seltzers of the Web video feast, so to speak: “OurTube,” by writer David Talbot, and “An Operating System for the Cloud,” by G. Pascal Zachary.


Talbot’s piece, “OurTube,” describes the “chaos of competing formats” in Internet video, and wonders why one can’t right-click to save, then manipulate, Web video. Along the way, he illuminates the landscape and trajectory of the major players (pun intended) behind YouTube, Apple video, Wikimedia,, and their ilk. (Comcast’s Fancast qualifies here, but isn’t mentioned.)

Example nuance: HTML 5.0 — the newest version of HyperText Markup Language — includes an “open-source” player in its browser, “no plug-ins required.” Adobe’s Flash bundles video with a plug-in player, which disallows direct access to the video.

Plug-ins. Bad. Got it.

The operating system for the cloud, in Zachary’s piece, is Google’s “Chrome,” due out in 2010. Beyond the obvious and instant threat of something like Chrome to something like Microsoft Windows is the tectonic plate shift to applications that are indifferent to operating systems. More important than the OS these days, Zachary explained, is the preservation of look and feel, across devices. (Think Facebook.)

Example: Adobe’s Flash, which started in life as a way to add animation to text-based Web pages, and is growing up to be a contender in displaying video “cross platform,” as cable people say. It announced its plans at the 2009 NAB show; Comcast is a partner.


Also big: putting applications “in the cloud” (higher up in the network), vs. on the end device. Not a new idea, but hugely relevant to anyone (hint, hint) who built the broadband lanes between the cloud and the gadgets.

Note: Neither piece mentioned service providers of any flavor. Regardless, if your life or work involves video, these terms (and their nuances) are either already in your field of view, or will be soon. Best jump in.

Stumped by gibberish? Visit Leslie Ellis

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