Monday, July 10

iFilm, Ted Stevens, and the decentralization of media

A good friend sent this video clip to me today. :)

VH1, Best Week Ever, The Lost Mac Ads

And well it is a great video clip, a nice spoof of the current Mac ads... by someone who clearly is sick of Apple. :)

What I find most interesting is that it's hosted by iFilm and coming from VH1. As my buddy Joel put it this is the first time he'd seen an iFilm video outside iFilm's walled garden.

Why this is significant is because for years iFilm was one of the only large scale video sites on the web. They represent the old guard and old ways of doing business online. While they haven't exactly been hurting over the explosion of video content online sites like Youtube, and real user centric video sites like and others have been sucking up HUGE amounts of the online video market share. iFilm is but another player now in the space... and what is interesting is how they're responding to these newcomers.

A few points.

1) iFilm has partnership with VH1 to deliver VH1's content.

2) iFilm has mimicked embedded flash "video sharing"... so ANYONE can post one of their videos into their site.

3) iFilm has added more user centric features and driven them through this Flash interface... not only sharing, but ratings, and even an interesting playlist feature

4) iFilm has changed their monetization mechanism... instead of obnoxious pre-roll ads (ads prior to the content) that were often longer than the actual content... they now are monetizing through their partnerships (i.e. VH1 is paying them to host and deliver these videos) and only putting tiny post-roll ads which do little more than brand.

While this is a big step forward for iFilm I'm still by NO means a fan of their backwards, top down, editorially driven, pro-big business / anti-consumer created... business model.

Indeed what I see here is that iFilm is embracing only the most superficial of the Web 2.0 innovations. They have decentralized the viewing experience, such that anyone can post an embedded player into their web page to be viewed on any website. However this is only "sharing" on the most superficial of levels. They still control the entirety of the content and it's unavailable for remix, downloading, shifting to the iPod, PSP, set top box or any alternative experiences. These videos can not even be crafted into user created playlists or shared in any form other than one of embedding.

It is only the first and most superficial step they have taken. I have accepted that they will never be a outlet for decentralized and user generated content... but I must grudgingly acknowledge that while I loath them for issues to numerous to mention here that their business plan (of acting as a internet port to slightly more clued in old world media companies) is at least solid, and they are moving at least in the smallest direction toward a more user friendly media scape.

The major problem is though at some point however... their walled garden world will not allow them to go beyond the computer desktop... to iPods, PSPs, Set top boxes and other portable media devices. There will always be a very large disparagement between the reality of an open access world... that where true podcasts and video blogs can go... and that which these walled garden businesses like iFilm can go with their DRM'd content and old world business models.

On a side note I think we would do well to admit that clearly Flash media is a form of DRM even though Macromedia doesn't declare it as such... and that in fact that has been unfortunately one of the keys to it's propagation by the likes of iFilm and Youtube... that coupled with a widespread install base, and the flexibility in which excellent rich and interactive user playback experiences can be crafted.

The fundamental cruxt of this disparaging abyss between sites like iFilm and the rest of the vlog world is that iFilm still sees the world as one of "consumers" and "creators"... when in the new world order we are all fundamentally both consumers and creators. This is the same theme that became so apparent in the now infamous speech by Senator Ted Stevens over the poignantly title "Communications, Consumer's Choice, and Broadband Deployment Act of 2006".

The term "consumer" is an outdated term that should be stricken from all conversation about the internet and media. You should find yourself immediately suspicious of anyone who uses such a term.

"Consumer choice" is an oxymoron. Having our choice of consumption is no choice at all. We must be free to create, and share and participate in every level of the mediascape and political process. It's imperative to the health of culture, business and politics.

Incumbent media and communications companies like AT&T, Verizon, Bell South and others would have the entire world relegated to the sidelines (or more the sofa) in politics, media and the entire internet... purely for their need to make a quick buck... and their influence over the likes of people in political power like Ted Stevens is most obvious, galling, and poignant. It's caused major outrage... indeed I'm so appalled that such uninformed (completely clueless) and overtly influenced people are making such decisions that I can scarcely keep my tongue civil. This would be the issue of the day for which I would march on Washington if it comes to that. The internet shall NOT be turned into the likes of cable television, nor subverted from it's status as a outpost of free speech.

Ted Stevens took such special interest rhetoric as that of AT&T, Verizon and Bellsouth to heart and expressed it. In so doing he displayed both the dangerous level of his influence by them in politics... the many critical flaws of their arguments and his ignorance... of even the existence of the growing mass culture of creators and innovators.

But I am rambling... it's OK for iFilm to be conservative or ignorant of simply to choose not to acknowledge the growing culture of creators and innovators... to their own folly perhaps... but it is not ok for this legislated on all of us... for the internet to be gated off and those keys to be handed to the like of such fools and idiots whom think that control over the last mile of the internet between the backbone and the home entitles them to be gate keepers of the supposedly "free world".

And what ever happened to those words, "free world"? As Doc Searls said in a nice little rant on the Net Neutrality issue... "free world" in America has come to mean only your freedom to choose between what silo or walled garden you want to be locked into. We bloggers, podcasters, vloggers, and everyone and anyone who has invested in open source software and open access media knows and believes in a TRUE freedom, and we shall see if that freedom shall be subverted in this tenuous fight over the future of the internet.

We will not see this future sold out through such delicate matters such as pornography, child protectionism, P2P and other hot issues. Idiots, fools and "pipe providers" will no doubt try to polarize this debate and use these issues to drive faulty politics and legislation in their favor... they'll try as is typical to label their opponents with demeaning labels, but we'll be there one blog, podcast, and vlog at a time evolving and redefining the debate to resist such myopic and misrepresented characterizations of the fight over the "network of pipes"... as Senator Ted Stevens so misguidedly called the internet.

The key to success is in one thing alone. Participation. Like critical mass bike rallies, the key to success is merely in getting a critical mass of participation... in blogging, in podcasting, in photocasting, in video blogging and in open source. The mere presence of a critical mass of independent, open and free culture is the first and most important step. The critical debate and action are then sure to follow. So get out there and speak your mind and do it not just in text, but via audio podcast, photograph, and video before we are sidelines in the fight over control of the internet.


Anonymous said...

i saw this video as well and i was shocked it came from ifilm.

as usual you've eloquently summed up the whole thing and left nothing for me to add!

Michael Meiser said...

Oh, please, you act like I used up every word in the english dictionary.

Even if I did there are still plenty of word combinations left.

You can even make up words. It worked for Dr. Seuss!