Most people are used to television, where control of a video — its image quality and other aspects — is locked.
The idea of allowing access to control video is still new. Content distributors are still grappling with how to handle it, usually through software or new video codecs (types of video data streams).
Content delivery network BitGravity has a different idea: Adding controls on the server side, where the video is streamed out to users. The company is rolling out a new API today that will allow content distributors to add some features to their videos that they haven’t had easy access to before.
The most important is quality determined by your connection speed. Say you’re watching video from a cafe with a bad Internet connection. A video streamed from BitGravity will automatically drop its quality to match the cafe network, so that you can watch without stopping and starting — although it will be grainy. But at home, on your high-speed fiber optic connection, the video can play at crisp high-definition quality.
BitGravity is also releasing some other new features as part of the API, like the ability to create mash-ups using clips pulled from multiple videos hosted on BitGravity’s servers, or allowing users to send links to a specific point within a video so that you can, say, easily call attention to part of a presidential candidate’s speech to your friend.
Some of these features are also available through software provided by other companies, but BitGravity co-founder Barrett Lyon says it will be easier to just have his company do the work. Video distributors like TV stations and movie studios have been trying to “take enterprise software and scale it” to get new features, he says, a difficult process that can introduce a host of problems.
But because video files are distributed across BitGravity’s servers in many small pieces, the company can selectively make changes in them as they go out to users, allowing an easy method of adding new features like the adaptive quality control. And because of the wide variation in connection speeds between various users, being able to affect quality is invaluable.
Barrett also says that using BitGravity will allow for cheaper video distribution. The company’s storage platform is 30 times more efficient in terms of space, power and storage than competitors like Akamai, he says, which allows savings that can be passed to customers. Generally speaking, CDN prices are dropping everywhere, which should encourage the growth of online video.
BitGravity also recently scored a partnership and funding from Tata Communications, a giant Indian conglomerate. A sample video allowing some control over the new features is available here.