With Silverlight and the recent announcement of H.264 in the Flash Player, high definition video content is coming to the web and Akamai, one of the major content delivery networks, is rolling out a new network that will be optimized for delivering high definition content to the web. As Sean surmises, I think we're still a couple of years out from a lot of HD video on the web, but we're getting much closer than we ever have because the major platforms of the web are all supporting it and with the update to the Flash Player, we'll soon have ubiquitous HD capability on the web.
Om Malik has a good post in which he talks to Akamai's CTO, Mike Afergan, about the role of CDNs (content delivery networks). As I've gotten more involved in the rich media side of things I've come to understand how important the CDNs are to the web ecosystem. Om has a great explanation of how the process works:
Without a CDN, the file travels from a video server inside the data center through a virtual spaghetti of networks, before arriving at your your computer or set-top box. In short, there are many points of anxiety along the way. If using a CDN, in most cases the video files are served from storage servers inside the CDN data center and are sent directly to the access network of, say, a cable company. The files are served out of the location closest to the broadband subscriber seeking to download a file.
Russell Shaw also asks some good questions about demand, content, and pricing. I don't think demand is going to be an issue as long as the user experience can be maintained. People want easy video first and foremost, but after that quality is hugely important. The popularity of the Apple Trailer's site is a testament to that. The key is making HD content easy, which Flash and Silverlight are going to do. Once that's in place, content creators can find good ways to monetize around the ecosystem.