W3C Video on the Web Workshop

Position Paper
December 12-13, 2007
San Jose, CA


Web video and associated rich-media content (e.g., 3D virtual worlds, MMOGs) have already made the proverbial leap from the incubation/hobbyist stage to initial mainstream adoption with millions of consumers, participants and content choices.  However, these dynamics notwithstanding, current adoption rates lag more mature Web technologies (e.g., HTML-based text, graphics, audio) by several orders of magnitude.  Further, the quality and reliability of the user experience associated with Web video varies widely.

While numerous factors clearly contribute to this heterogeneity and varied adoption pacing, including relatively recent advances in broadband availability and quality, efficient video codecs, and commoditization and simultaneous performance gains in consumer processing (CPU and GPU) and storage technologies, a number of vexing challenges have arisen which are unique to the deployment of high-bandwidth, real-time services such as streaming Web video, interactive multiplayer games and virtual worlds.  The W3C’s new Web Video Initiative appears to be positioned optimally to identify and address a number of these issues, and this paper is offered to highlight several suggested work items.

Problem Statement

Given the unique characteristics of Web video services – namely, (1) bandwidth-intensive transport/distribution, (2) CPU/GPU-intensive encoding/decoding/rendering, (3) very large file sizes, and (4) wide variability in policies associated with distribution, consumption and sharing – numerous technical, business and economic challenges have emerged, representing an inhibiting force in opposition to accelerated adoption.  While some of these challenges should appropriately remain within the competitive domain, allowing for service provider and product differentiation, others represent strategic enablers which may accelerate both producer and consumer adoption of the Web as a rich-media distribution and consumption medium, simultaneously improving the quality of content, the consistency of user experience and the overall economic viability of this emerging sector.

A preliminary list of key market challenges (and, conversely, potential enablers) includes:

Proposed Work Items

Based upon these market considerations, the following technical work items may prove compelling and valuable in the context of the W3C’s current Web video incubation efforts.  It should also be noted that these further align with the W3C’s overarching “one, fully-actualized Web” charter:

CableLabs and its member MSOs have a significant amount of interest in these and related topics, and I personally look forward to participating in this collaborative industry effort.

Jason Gaedtke
Chief Scientist