In HTML5 video standards war, Vid.ly is Switzerland

A site called Vid.ly this week is debuting its answer to the emerging battle between Google, Microsoft and others over the future of HTML5 video standards.

Startup Encoding.com says its new service is available in beta and allows any video to be displayed on the five major desktop browsers; mobile devices such as the iPhone, Android and BlackBerry; and even gaming devices like the Nintendo DS, Wii and PlayStation Portable.

Vid.ly represents an end run around the industry standards war, a war that could otherwise result in videos developed for Chrome that may not work on Internet Explorer, and vice versa.

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Encoding.com, which bills itself as the "world's largest encoding service," with 1,400 customers, says its newest venture solves "the biggest challenge facing publishers of online video."

Vid.ly, deployed on top of Amazon Web Services, doesn't actually create a universal standard for video. Instead, the service transcodes a source video into 14 formats and creates a "universal video URL" that can play the video on any type of device. The link essentially points to 14 separate copies of the same video, but for the end user the experience will be seamless, promises Jeff Malkin, Encoding.com president and co-founder. The user will simply click on the Vid.ly URL and the service will detect which browser or mobile device is in use and serve up the correctly optimized video.

In this way, Vid.ly solves the problem for content publishers who "have a very simple request: 'Can you just make my video work for everybody?'" Malkin says.

The short URL will also make it easier to share videos on Twitter, which is increasingly being accessed across both mobile and desktop platforms.

"This is going to be explosive for Twitter," Malkin says.

Services like Vid.ly could take on growing importance if the emerging battle over HTML5 video standards leads to fragmentation across browsers. While Microsoft is supporting the H.264 video codec, Google is sponsoring a new format called WebM, which also has backing from Mozilla and Opera. Firefox and Chrome are also supporting a format called Theora.

Vid.ly can work with all of these. "If an iPad visits [a Vid.ly] url, we'll deliver an H.264 video in 640x480 version," the beta site claims. "If a Firefox 3.52 browser visits the url we'll deliver the HTML5 video in OggTheora format."

Vid.ly cannot be applied to every video already on the Web. For example, Malkin says he was unable to take a YouTube link and transform it into a Vid.ly URL. Vid.ly therefore will rely upon developers and content publishers to adopt it before publishing videos.

While in a private beta, Vid.ly will be limited to about 1,000 users. The basic service is free, but in about two months Encoding.com will release a paid version that will give developers API access and the ability to use Vid.ly URLs on the content delivery network of their choosing.

Malkin anticipates that more video formats will emerge over time. Vid.ly therefore plans to add support for new video formats as they come online, and apply the new formats retroactively to pre-existing Vid.ly URLs.

Follow Jon Brodkin on Twitter: www.twitter.com/jbrodkin

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Jon Brodkin

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