Visionary Video Disruptors

Back in the spring of 2002, we (Macromedia, when I was CTO there) put video as a format into Flash Player 6 (MX).  Over that summer, I took a sabbatical and spent most of my time exploring the new video runtime in Flash Player and prototyping different applications that could take advantage of it.  A few examples included:

  • A simple audio/video blogging tool that worked in a web browser using the still vastly under-leveraged Microphone and Camera APis and Flash Communication Server (now FMS).
  • A prototype of CNN of the future -- leveraging the interactivity, multiple video objects and sync'd real-time data to demonstrate what video news could look like in the future
  • A simple video email system that allowed one to easily create and send video messages using email as a transport

At the core of these experiments was my belief that because a common, ubiquitous runtime was emerging for video, that over the next decade video would become as ubiquitous as text on the Web -- that it would become as central to content publishing and communications as text and images have been during Internet 1.0.  I was convinced that new publishing and communication platforms would need to emerge -- online services -- to facilitate this vision of video ubiquity.  While I pursued some of these ideas inside of Macromedia in late 2002, it was clear that they were both early and also needed to be hatched independently.

As 2004 came around, there was building energy behind ad-supported online media, and nearly every media company in the world was gearing up to invest in and find ways to create new digital media properties that could attract the coming flow of TV advertising dollars to the Internet.  As I started Brightcove (we were originally called Video Marketplace, Inc. back in late 2004), we held this broader vision of video ubiquity on the Web, but channelled our energy into finding ways to match that to the media and advertising landscape.  That was clearly going to be the first place where video would drive a significant transformation in a business context.

At the same time that Brightcove was pursuing this initial strategy of ad-supported pro media, YouTube was pursuing the idea of consumer video publishing and sharing, opening up video as a global and cultural force for personal communication.  Both of us shared the vision of the democratization of video on the Web, but we came at the problem for entirely different design-centers.  While they built a simple but easy to use consumer publishing tool, we built a sophisticated platform for operating an ad-supported online video business.

Now, seven years after the first introduction of video into the Flash runtime, video ubiquity is finally approaching.  Online video has become a central part of any end-user's expected online experience, and the tools for producing, publishing and distributing video are becoming both easier and more powerful at the same time.  However, while we can see and imagine a world where every web site uses video and rich media as a core part of its content, we still have a very long way to go.  While destination sites like YouTube have grown dramatically, and nearly every traditional media site and property now includes video, the vast majority of web sites still lack much use of video and rich media.  By web sites, i mean every corporate and organizational website, both internal facing and public / Internet facing.  In short, the professional web -- the web that is used to market, communicate, educate, inform and transact.  

Driving any kind of broad transformation in how society and institutions communicate are leaders and visionaries.  There were the visionaries in the mid 1990s who saw the opportunity of the Web for organizations.  There were visionaries within organizations who pushed the adoption of new forms of computing and software adoption in IT.  What we are starting to see now is the emergence of 'video disruptors' within traditional organizations -- corporations, schools, non-profits, agencies, civic institutions; individuals who's imagination and passion have seen that they can transform how their organization operates by leveraging the power of video as a communications platform.  These early adopters are pushing their organizations to re-think how they communicate, educate, inform and entertain their audiences and constituencies.  

The passion and drive of these 'video disruptors' is driven by their desire to become heros within their organizations -- they sense and believe that their work can transform the potential for their organization.  

I'm starting to see and hear about these heroic stories every day and week as organizations employ video and rich media to transform their work.  I'm eager to hear your stories -- how are you embracing video as a change agent.  How are you transforming how your organization or company markets and communicates; educates and informs.  How is video become a personal and group communication platform for you?  I'd love to hear your stories and then share some of them online.

While at the end of the day most organizations will measure various technology choices and communications tactics on the basis of ROI, at this stage of the market it is just as important to celebrate the heroic acts of visionaries who are setting the seeds for organization transformation, to share their use cases, and to build awareness.  The rest will follow.