Monday, September 26

What if you could have your own personal TV channel?

What if you could have your own personal TV channel and you could simply add any item on the web to that TV channel at any time like a big giant Tivo so that when you got home you could turn on the TV and watch whatever it was you'd queued up during the day?

Think of it as Netflicks, but a) your selection is any video on the web and b) instead of videos arriving by mail they'd arrive via the internet to your set top box, media center or other device.

Or you can think of it as a giant Tivo. Except instead of queuing anything on TV guide your queuing any video on the web.

Does it sound simple enough? Impossible?

The technologies are all in existence to make this possible. Video syndication, aggregation and playback tools like Fireant and iTunes are now widely available for free. In fact if you have a basic computer and a reasonably fast internet connection then you've got everything you need. And, If you have a a camera that does digital video (as many sub $200 cameras do) to go with your computer and internet connection then you've got everything you need to make your own media. But for the sake of turning the web into a giant Tivo all that's now needed are some creative webservices.

The basic premise for queuing is simple.

1) Upon clicking on a "queue it" bookmarklet in your web browser a bit of javascript grabs the referring url and hands it to a webservice.

2) The webservice parses the HTML and presents any videos available on the page.

3) If more than one video is available you simply select the video you'd like and it is added to the your queue on the webservice

4) Some sort of confirmation is displayed and you are returned to the page from which you came.

Simple enough so far, but what happens after the webservice has the video you'd like to watch?

1) The webservice then takes the url of the video as well as any meta information associated with it and puts it into a user specific RSS 2.0 feed w/enclosures.

2) An Aggregator on your media center, set top box or other internet connected device then downloads the RSS feed, parses it, and downloads all videos referenced, adding them to the playlist awaiting your attention.

3) When you return to the device all you have to do is press play.

In addition to individual video queuing such a webserivce could also allow subscriptions to existing RSS feeds and video blogs. Even whole web pages not containing RSS feeds. Here's how.

1) Upon clicking on the "subscribe" bookmarklet in the browser a bit of javascript takes the referring url and hands it off to a webservice

2) An application on the webservice retrieves the referring web page and searches for an RSS 2.0 feed with enclosures. If none is found it searches for videos.

3) Upon verifying that the page either contains either an RSS feed containing videos or videos itself either the page or RSS page is added to the user queue and a confirmation is displayed before the user is returned to the originating web page.

So what happens after a web page or RSS feed is subscribed too?

1) the RSS feed or web page is parsed and individual items are added to a user specific RSS feed with any other content in the users "queue"

2) An aggregator on your media center, set top box or other internet connected device then downloads the RSS feed, parses it, and downloads all videos adding them to the playlist awaiting your return from work.

3) from this point forward the webservice periodically downloads and parses the original RSS feed checking for new videos and the aggregator periodically checks the webservices RSS feed for new videos.

Why? What's new about this? Why bother?

Queuing is to subscription based media what Tivo is to TV channels.

Right now we have the existing existing Video syndication, aggregation and playback technologies and creating and watching peer based content is starting to take off. But current methods are completely focused on subscription based mechanisms, aka. channels. I suspect this is because they are modeled at least in part on television, however it is rare that we want to watch every item in a channel and further more there are many times when we only want to watch one item in a channel, so why than would you subscribe to the entire channel when you just want one item. Alternatively you may simply want to watch random items that are not associated with any channel. It's times like these that we need greater control over our viewing experience.

Why not just watch videos from the web in the web browser?

This is a good question. First of all the web is an active viewing experience. While browsing the web we're actively engaged in and interacting with the content. Do to both the attentive nature of the web browsing experience and serious lack of capacity for delivering video early video based media on the web were delivered in smaller, shorter, lower resolution, "bite sized" chunks. Many of these early restraints still shape the internet based video viewing experience today, but now their are new opportunities.

Do to the increased proliferation of high-speed internet connections at home and the drop in cost for bandwidth and hosting we now have an opportunity to offer higher resolution and longer video based content to home users. A place where people have more time and are more apt to relax and take in a more passive viewing experience.

This does not mean that all video should be watched at home, in a video specific player, or that all videos are getting longer. What it does mean is that there will be a proliferation of all formats of media online and that as some of this content gets longer in length we need to improve our systems for how we find and watch it. Queuing videos for watching at a later time in an alternative environment such as on the TV or the home computer (even portable devices) allows us more control over what we watch and how we watch it.

Now then, the only question left is, what will you watch?

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