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Optimized Live- and Behind-the-Firewall Streaming with Mediasite

June 13, 2017

Mediasite content was viewed 50 million times in 2016. Put another way, that’s 20 million hours of video, and that number grows 20 to 40 percent every year. That’s a lot of streaming, and the device the viewer is using, the browser they choose and even the bandwidth they have access to are as varied and unique as the users themselves.

The vast variability in these factors creates an interesting experience for audiences watching Mediasite content.

As video platform providers, we want each of those 50 million views to be the highest quality possible for audiences, regardless of the variables that are out of our control. That means our solution serves up the best possible viewing experience no matter the circumstances. When you click a Mediasite link, it just plays.

Understanding browser and platform compatibility is foundational to what we do at Sonic Foundry, and our team has been working since 2004 to shield our customers from the volatility of the shifting technology-adoption landscape, including the use of plugins. We’ve architected Mediasite’s intelligent streaming capabilities from the beginning, and we’re continually innovating to ensure we stay in sync with the changing landscape to deliver the best possible streaming solution to our customers.

Our Path to Achieving Intelligent Streaming

Cross-platform ubiquity was one of the most important challenges we solved back when we used Windows Media technologies for recording and playback; customers wanted Mediasite to work on a Mac just the same as Windows, which we addressed with our early adoption of Silverlight. In addition to the solutions for Mac playback, we also implemented the open source Port25 Windows Media Player for Firefox.

We were the first to market with a family of features that radically accelerated the adoption of live-streaming video on iPads, iPhones and other mobile devices. Mediasite adopted the H.264 video encoding standard delivered to desktops via Microsoft’s Smooth Streaming format, and concurrently adopted Apple’s HTTP Live Streaming (HLS) format for delivery to mobile devices – state of the art streaming technologies that defined the next generation video platform. To accommodate the best desktop and mobile playback experience we used Silverlight and HTML5 media elements, respectively.

Since 2014 we’ve seen a significant need to move away from plug-ins in the industry, and companies like Google, Microsoft, Apple and others are opting to drop support for plug-ins in their browsers. This started when the companies moved away from the archaic NPAPI standard used by plug-ins and developed their own standards for plug-ins. They also packaged plug-ins like Flash within the browser.  Many other browsers, including Microsoft Edge, have followed suit. As these browsers decided to capitalize on the popularity of Flash, the use of Silverlight and plugins declined. At that time Mediasite switched to Flash for Smooth Streaming playback.

Over the years as we foresaw emerging streaming trends, we made strategic changes to Mediasite’s architecture. All driven by our commitment to customers, deep awareness of all video consumers regardless of device and respect for the needs of IT teams. We architected intelligent streaming so that no matter how a user chooses to watch video, Mediasite is inherently aware of the device and browser and automatically picks the best format for the best viewing experience. With this foundation, we’ve progressed to a truly plugin-free world.

The Future of Streaming Media

Finally, as Windows Media fades away, IP-Multicast becomes an issue. We continue to support Windows Media for backward compatibility, particularly for customers requiring IP-Multicast support. We’re also bringing back alternative solutions for live broadcasts which we support on the Windows platform, including IP-Multicast using H.264 and HLS instead of Windows Media.

Because of the variety of playback platforms our audiences use, we leave no stone unturned when it comes to creating a seamless playback experience. All of our decisions are built on the foundation of intelligent streaming. Our system works everywhere, live or on demand. When you click a Mediasite link it plays, no matter the browser. We will continue as a company to be open to formats that give our customers the best experience, and remain laser-focused on building intelligent streaming into Mediasite.

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