Archive for June 18th, 2007

Open letter to YouTube mobile web devs

And so the mobile version of YouTube was launched. Too bad that there is no feedback page for their mobile service, so here’s an open letter instead:

Dear Mobile Web Developer of YouTube,

1. Your mobile site is CSS-dependant for lots of things. This is a no-no if you want good mobile browser compatibility. I am not advocating to ditch CSS, but I do advocate to include alternatives in the code (e.g. attributes on the BODY tag for bgcolor, topmargin, link colors etc). You see, phones that don’t support CSS will pick up the HTML and phones that do will pick up the CSS by default. For example, Nokia’s S40 phones can playback your videos, but your pages look dreadful, and that would be easily avoided wtih a bit of legacy coding as a fallback.

2. The videos are resized to 192×144. While this retains the 4:3 aspect ratio of the source YouTube videos (which are in fact 320×240), the 192×144 resolution is very, very, incompatible with most phones. Not only most 176×220 phones will REFUSE to playback that video because 192 > 176 (even if they technically would be able to), but also even some QVGA higher-end phones will choke. You see, cellphones prefer to only support predefined resolutions, e.g. 128×96, 176×144, 176×132 (rare), 320×240, and that’s about it. It is easier to program a mobile video player this way and so MOST phones don’t support random resolutions, even if they adhere to 4:3.
The solution should have been this:
When a mobile user is clicking to view a video, there should be two links:
Click for 320×208 or smaller screens
Click for 320×240 or bigger screens

For the first case a 176×144 at 15fps 3GP video is served which will be slightly out of proportion (small price to pay for compatibility) and for the QVGA case a 320×240 at 15fps MP4 video is served (not 3GP). Yes, it makes the UI a bit more perplexing, but it guarantees better compatibility with most phones. Eventually users will find the right choice for them and a cookie can help the situation to never have to choose ever again. The way that Mobile YouTube is setup right now, only about 20% of the modern phones are supported (estimation). With my solution, while still not ideal, you can go up to 80%.

3. All the video thumbnail images on YouTube Mobile are either 130×97 or 122×100, and then they are resized to either 40×30 or 80×60 on the fly. Why?!? Not only you waste bytes for no good reason (images are between 3 and 4 KB each, while they could easily be 1 or 2 KB each if they had resized them properly) while we all know how slow even EDGE can be, no matter if you have an unlimited data plan or not. More over, many mobile browsers ignore the forcing of on-the-fly resizing of images and that will make things worse. Each thumbnail should have been properly resized by your engine in the two required sizes, not be resized forcefully. Let alone that forcefully resized images by browsers only use the faster “smart resize” algorithm instead of the bilinear algorithm, resulting in much lower quality.

4. Are you blocking Apple’s QuickTime?

Your friendly neighbor,
Eugenia

It is getting crowded

Remember my interview with Sanctuary’s producer at OSNews, the web-only TV production?

Apparently, there are not one, not two, but three more production companies which are preparing their own webisodes as we speak. And I am not talking about crap like LonelyGirl15’s for YouTube, but real productions from real Hollywood producers.

It is starting to get crowded in the Web TV arena and we haven’t even started yet. We might see a huge battle for market share between Web TV and traditional TV in the next 10 years.

Update: This might work you know. Having some indie film makers making 5-6 minute short webisodes and then uploading QVGA versions on YouTube and everywhere else they can for free. They can sell ad-free higher-resolution versions (e.g. QCIF .3gp for 176×144 cellphones in letterbox format for better compatibility, QVGA MP4 for 320×240 cellphones in letterbox format for better compatibility, 320×176 or letterbox QVGA in h.264 for iPod/PSP, 720/24p for desktops and to be compatible with the AppleTV). The important thing is that they should have at least 3 ad sponsors that run 15 second commercials on the 1st (15 sec commercial), 3rd (15 sec commercial) and 6th (3 or 5 sec acknowledgment) minute of each webisode. All the production costs must be paid with the ad sponsorship and whatever it’s left should be profit. Everything that’s sold ad-free in the higher/better-resolution versions, should be pure profit.

I think that Indie film-makers can find a real new ground on the web and make some good money. The Net is the rebel’s ground. It is where they can battle the big TV stations by using the tools they already have: the net itself. All it’s needed is some vision and some good business relations with advertisers and sites.

Quickies

* Spent 6 hours in ER yesterday. Gastritis. God, having an IV is so uncomfortable.

* Layoffs at Openwave today. Thankfully my husband is safe.

* We upgraded our Netflix and Gamefly subscriptions. I spent some time on Saturday putting together a list of 50 movies that we haven’t seen. I added “Fight Club” in the list, but I won’t be watching that, too gory for me.

* Charles Stross says that we will never colonize another planet or travel to another solar system. While I agree that with the current technology we can’t, it would be too short-sighted and lack of vision to say that rockets are the only way to go from point A to point B. More over, he states that humans can only survive in very specific gravity conditions and that it’s extremely unlikely that a habitable planet will have the same gravity as earth does. Well, it seems that Charlie doesn’t watch Science Channel, because NASA is already working on the problem with genetic engineers: the humans that will be selected to colonize a planet, will be biologically altered so they can survive.

* “Scans of Monks’ Brains Show Meditation Alters Structure, Functioning” says WSJ. I like that. It’s like body building of the mind, just like studying hard is. I could easily join a budhist group and do meditation, just don’t ask me to believe on all the supernatural crap. The “faith” part is lacking on me — regardless of religion.

* I blogged about it many months ago, Nokia will have to go touchscreen for Symbian S60 4.0. Not because they want to, but because that’s what the competition demands. Now, there are rumors about it on some forums and also a news article on Engadget.