Rich Media

As bandwidth speeds get faster and faster, what we can do with the net also increases. Five years ago, transmitting video over the net would have been utterly infeasible. Today, it's almost a routine matter. As technology progresses on, so the things that we can do change.

One of the most popular sites on the Internet right now is YouTube. The site is simply a space where users can upload videos for others to watch. This is not a difficult concept to grasp, but its availability and success has been something of a revelation. People like cool videos, and people are great at knowing what other people like. It's a no-brainer, but it would not have been possible without new technology that makes streaming Internet video so reliable.

Flickr is a similar site, but for photos. What makes Flickr interesting is that, as well as being a place for you to store your photos, it is an astounding piece of programming. The management interface is on par with the functionality that a desktop program will offer you, and this is due to the AJAX programming technology that it employs. Rich media is as much about a rich user experience as it is about video and audio content. The ability to manipulate, manage and store images online in a manner similar to a desktop application is something new that people are finding that they like. Why install (and pay for) more software on your computer when you can do everything you want online, and don’t have to worry about your photos dying in a hard drive crash?

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Flickr offers a desktop-like experience on the web for those looking to manage their photos.
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What both these services offer over desktop applications is a new and different way to explore content. Flickr uses algorithms to rate photos by 'interestingness', while YouTube offers a leaderboard of the most popular videos on the site each day. Here we see the intersection of rich media and social networking , and the value that can be created by allowing people to find the media that other people are interested in. The wisdom of the crowd means that the most popular media rises to the top. These services mean that media becomes democratic - instead of being forced to consume what media conglomerates tell us to, we can create our own and expect that, if we're any good, other people will flock to that.

Rich media is also looking to define the way we consume mainstream content in the future. With the ability now to broadcast both TV and radio over the Internet, the traditional case for broadcast media starts to get interesting. Why simply view your episode of Lost on the TV when you can download it to your computer in order to watch and re-watch at your own convenience? That is the mentality behind ABC’s provision of Lost for the iTunes Music Store, where users can download each new episode for $1.99 a week. Why listen to rubbish DJs on the radio when you can get your favourite audio content downloaded straight to your iPod on demand?

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Why watch the lovely Evangeline on TV when you can download her to watch over and over again?
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As the new net is cast, we will see that on-demand TV and radio will become the preferred medium for broadcast content, and the Internet will be the vehicle to deliver that.

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