The launch of the BBC’s long awaited iPlayer has been controversial due to their decision to support only Windows XP. Users of Apple Macs, Linux, or even Windows Vista are currently unable to use the service, which allows the last seven days of BBC programmes to be downloaded, and then watched at any time in the next month. This clip, from BBC News, explains what it’s about.
Today, it was announced that the BBC has signed a deal with Adobe to provide Flash versions of their video content, including the iPlayer. This will allow users of other operating systems to access the last week’s programmes, but only to watch it as live streams. It still won’t be possible to download the content to watch later. The BBC Trust quickly responded to say that the BBC must still provide the full download service on other platforms.
Flash on websites used to be nothing but a nuisance. Sites would have annoying intros, or even worse, the whole site navigation would be slow and virtually unusable. Happily, with the coming of Web 2.0, far more sites use standard HTML and realise the importance of search engine optimisation. Flash has been given a new lease of life as the technology behind sites such as YouTube. Flash is ideal for this. In the past, streaming video embedded in news sites often didn’t work on people’s computers as they would be lacking a plug-in or codec. But where a Flash player is used, all people need is the Flash plugin. It’s only since the invention of Flash-based video players that watching streamed video online has really taken off.
The announcement suggests that Flash is to be offered for all video content in the future, including video clips on the BBC website. At present, these are offered in either RealPlayer or Windows Media format. There were nasty rumours a while ago that the BBC were planning to scrap RealPlayer, and move over to Windows Media-only. The addition of Flash will mean that, even if RealPlayer disappears, the content will be available to everyone. (Hopefully it won’t be too much harder to download the clips, should you want to, than it is at the moment.) In fact, Flash video on the BBC website isn’t a new thing. They have been trialling it on their technology pages for a while. If you watched the clip about the iPlayer above, you’ve already tried it! If you click through to the BBC website, there is a link to “Watch in the News Player”, which shows the same video in RealPlayer or Windows Media Player. This is the shape of things to come! From this clip about the $100 laptop, is also seems the quality isn’t bad. Now all we need is a decent size for the video…
P.S. You can download the video about the iPlayer in FLV format (yes, the streaming-only Flash video!)