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Brier Dudley offers a critical look at technology and business issues affecting the Northwest.

May 19, 2010 at 4:42 PM

Delve boss dissects Google’s new Web video standard

Seattle video startup Delve Networks is jumping onto WebM, a new Web video standard announced today by Google, Mozilla and others.

WebM is intended to offer a royalty-free alternative to commercial video standards — namely the H.264 codec that’s widely used for Web video today and favored by Apple.

Microsoft said its upcoming Internet Explorer 9 browser will support WebM’s “VP8” video codec, as will Mozilla’s Firefox, Opera and Google’s Chrome browser.

The jumble of video standards and jousting between platform companies is confusing to consumers but good for companies like Delve.

After a few different approaches to the video market, Delve has a growing business converting Web publishers’ video to multiple standards for different devices. today it jumped on the WebM bandwagon, announcing its support of the standard.

In an interview, Chief Executive Alex Castro, a veteran of Microsoft and Amazon.com, also offered some insights on WebM and what’s happening with Web video standards.

Castro is enthusiastic about WebM but expects it will take awhile to get established.

“It’s sort of like HTML 5 — it’s not going to change the world in the next six months, but in 18 months it could have a big effect,” he said.

Castro said “Adobe stands to be the biggest loser” although Adobe is among the initial companies supporting the WebM project.

With “the combination of this new WebM format along with a lot of people getting behind HTML 5, you start to say, ‘Why do I care about Flash and Silverlight?’ ” he said.

Castro said the complexity of the situation helps Delve, which has also benefited from the format spat between Apple and Adobe. The fight has generated business with publishers needing their video converted to play on the iPad.

“The only way you can play video on the iPad is to support HTML5 and H.264,” he explained. “Our customers … they don’t care about the standard politics, they care about ‘can my customers watch my content.'”

How will consumers be affected by the video standards battles?

“Unfortunately in the near term there’s going to be some confusion for users and some poor experiences,” Castro predicted.

“I think unfortunately consumers are caught in the middle as all these major technology vendors are vying for the highest ground,” he said. “Right now consumers are getting the shortest end of the stick. If I spend $500 or $700 for an iPad, it kind of sucks a lot of Web sites I go to don’t have support for HTML5.”

Does Google have enough clout to establish the WebM standard?

“They have YouTube and that’s great, but what they don’t have is enough browser market share to do it by themselves,” he said. “That’s why they need Opera and Mozilla, but even if you add those guys up they don’t have 50 percent market share. In some ways it would be good for consumers today if Google had the oomph to make this a standard. As soon as someone wins, the sooner consumers aren’t caught in the middle.”

“I think the sad reality here is this is probably going to play out for another year or two while these guys jockey for position.”

Meanwhile, Delve’s doing fine, Castro said. He said its sales grew 400 percent last year — to more than $1 million — and he’s expecting around 290 percent sales growth this year.

Comments | Topics: Adobe, adobe, Apple

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