June 3, 2009

The promise of open source video

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JD LasicaOn June 19-20, 2009, I’ll be at New York University’s School of Law attending the Open Video Conference. To my surprise and delight, this is turning out to be quite a big event.

Socialbrite readers get 15 percent the registration fee (regularly $75 for individuals and nonprofits and $200 for companies). The event will be held June 19-20 at NYU.

Shay David of Kaltura

Shay David of Kaltura

The open source landscape has come quite a long way in the past few years, and its importance to the media landscape can hardly be overestimated, said Shay David — co-founder and CTO of Kaltura and a fellow at Yale Law School’s Information Society Project — by phone as he sped to the airport for yet another trip abroad.

“If you want an open structure of media to guarantee that the future of media is not proprietary and locked down, then open is the only way to go,” he said. “If we care about democratized media, where citizens in their living rooms can access programming from more than just three or four media conglomerates, then we should care about open video.”

But David’s warning is not a call to arms against entrenched corporate interests. “Millions of lines of code have been written in the open video world without a lot of success,” he acknowledged.

Rather, it’s a call for reasoned partnerships: public and private, new and old, for-profit and nonprofit. We need to think beyond licenses and consider how to build real businesses that are built on open and democratic principles — and translate that into real economic value. In short, he argues that open video is not just about serving the interests of users. Open video is good for business, too.

Surveying the open media landscape

Davis is one of the few people I’ve heard who can provide context around what has been happening in the open source movement. Some developers, like those working on Ogg Theora, are focusing on open-sourcing the codec through video compression. Others, like the Mozilla Foundation, are targeting the user experience through the Firefox browser. (Google’s Chrome and Apple’s Safari run on the open source WebKit rendering engine.) Still others, like ccMixter (a community remix site sponsored by Creative Commons) and Jamendo (a music platform and community where you can download and listen to over 15,000 albums legally) are targeting the content licensing layer. And David’s own Kaltura is the first open source video platform for online video management, creation, interaction and collaboration; with more than 25,000 publishers, “it’s the fastest-growing video platform on the Web,” he said. Wikipedia is scheduled to begin using Kaltura’s video platform throughout the online encyclopedia some time this summer. (Another worthy effort is the Participatory Culture Foundation’s Miro software.)

All told, a global community of developers has emerged around the open video movement, he said. “From my perspective, the world is divided into three parts: The technical architecture of an open system. The legal issues around who owns content management rights. And the infrastructure layer: codecs, formats, patents.”

The Open Video Conference is one measure of the movement’s robustness. With zero marketing budget, the organizers quickly heard from 180 different projects and nonprofits that applied to present. Somewhere between 600 and 800 people are expected to attend. From the website: “Open Video is more than just open codecs. It’s the growing movement for transparency, interoperability, and further decentralization in online video.”

David said that over the past year or so, some clarity has come to the open video movement. “One of the things we learned is that we can’t use Flash in the production layer, because under Adobe’s term, we’re free to use it but not free to use and rework in the sense of free software.” Thus, Kaltura is participating in developing an open source alternative.

Open video adherents like David are not against Apple or Adobe, but they do want to create an alternative in the market that uses true open source technology as the basis for a for-profit business. “We’re running a business, not a charity,” David said.

Of the creative ferment in the open source video movement, he said, “I see a tremendous amount of interest in the market for this, connecting people who are working on browsers and codecs and players and bring them all together. There’s something in the air.”


• My video interview with Kaltura CEO and co-founder Ron Yekutiel
Streamingmedia.com: Shay David essay, “Industry Perspectives: The Promise of Open Source Video”JD Lasica, founder and former editor of Socialbrite, is co-founder of Cruiseable. Contact JD or follow him on Twitter or Google Plus.

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4 thoughts on “The promise of open source video

  1. Pingback: Kaltura’s Blog » Blog Archive » Preparing for The Open Video Conference

  2. Interesting post. I tried the Firefox 3.5 beta demo to see what it looked like when playing the Ogg Theora videos. As the video loaded and the player came up, it looked so smooth I had to right click a couple different spots just to make sure it wasn’t really some slick flash player.

    It wasn’t! I could skip around in the video with the little scrubber, go full screen, and it loaded very quickly! It was one of the coolest things I’ve seen in a long while.

    A lot of great stuff around the corner! Seems like the browsing experience is going to be getting pretty interesting in the next couple years.

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