Embedding video in blogs

Another in an occasional series – collating my notes on blogging and infrastructure that I’ve sent to my customers.

This time discussing the fun of getting video embedded into your blog.

Background

The original conversation was when I was self hosting. Dropping a video into the blog was easy – the issues were really around performance (slow uplink) and impact to other services (such as VOIP). Being given a denial-of-service from your own infrastructure wasn’t a good plan. Every time a video was viewed the uplink was hosed – and services were down.

The variables

Performance. What is the user experience pulling down a video. What if they are in Seattle, New York, New Zealand, London, Berlin? Is there any streaming or does the whole video need to download?

Privacy. Really about access control – and how to stop private family videos getting leached or viewed.

Ease of use. Facebook is a great example of what people (consumers) expect. Shoot video on phone, link to a blog/email, click done. All of the magic (rendering, transcoding, codec mungling, upload, CDN placement) is done behind the scenes. 

Cost. Free is fantastic – but the elasticity of the above requirements changes that somewhat. For most of my blogging and video posting I’ve tended to rank:

  • Ease of use
  • Privacy
  • Cost
  • Performance

Somewhere in that mix is an immutable value that the cost cannot exceed ($5 per month? $10? $50 seems too much) – it should be ‘an affordable luxury’ as my friend Steffi put it.

The experiments

Self-hosting. Posting MPGs and serving them via Apache.

  • Ease of use – not great. Getting video to the blog was not a problem (ftp or xml-rpc) but embedding it was pretty crappy.
  • Privacy – good. Same authentication as the blog and photos.
  • Cost – fantastic. No additional expense.
  • Performance – very poor. Slow to serve, degraded service at home – all round a no go.

Amazon S3. Posting MPGs to S3

  • Ease of use – ouch. Much harder than self-host – I couldn’t see myself explaining to customers about S3 buckets, upload, setting security and finally embedding into a blog.
  • Privacy – medium. Security by obscurity.
  • Cost – good. Low cost to upload and store. Low cost to serve from S3.
  • Performance. Better than self host. European S3 buckets worked well for non-US visitors. Poor experience all round for non-US and non-EU visitors. US-only content was pretty slow for EU viewers – but better than self-host.

Post to shared hosting server. Post MPGs to shared blog.

Much the hybrid between the above two. Benefits to performance.

Video hosting service – YouTube

  • Ease of use – easy. Upload, click, done. Good plugins for embed to blog.
  • Privacy – poor. Private video – requires YouTube/Google login to view; share to 50 contacts. Or unlisted – which is leachable. Security by obscurity.
  • Cost – fantastic. Zero.
  • Performance – good. Fast and widely available. Good mobile support.

Video streaming/hosting service – Bits on the Run

  • Ease of use – easy. Upload, click, done. Good plugin for embed.
  • Privacy – medium. Security by obscurity – but less obvious than YouTube. Also can be protected by preventing download/leach.
  • Cost – medium. Storage and egress costs.
  • Performance – good. Uses Cloudfront CDN (soon to change??) which has global distribution – works well across the US, Europe and AP.

After hacking around with all of the options I decided to use Bits on the Run for hosting and streaming videos. I’ve been really happy to date. It’s costing me around $10 per month.

The conversation

Here’s the first mail – some slight changes – but the main tradeoffs are in there.

So what to look for:

– Performance

– Storage and bandwidth costs

It’s also a lot better experience for your various viewers. The video content is pushed out to a global content delivery network – see map below – so no matter whether you’re in Munchen or Sydney – you’ll get a smooth, fast video.

It’s all about your tradeoffs:

– Privacy (none with youtube)

– Speed (can you watch it without a painful wait)

– Technology (do you need a phd to get the video edited, uploaded, converted to the right format, put into the blog

– Cost

It’s the usual elastic maths – I ended up using a video streaming service because it really makes the speed and technology easy (upload and it’s done) and it integrates with the blog (easy) – but it comes at a price.

Then the follow up

The challenges of getting video securely into your blog were numerous:
– performance (slow, stop/start video, poor playback)
– technically hard
– getting the video into a format that was useful to play on the web
I’ve been testing out a video-on-demand service that seems to fix these issues. All you need to do is have your video ready to upload in AVI or MP4 format, upload it – then embed it into your blog. It should be that simple. All of the technical gubbins behind the scenes is looked after – along with getting the video to the right place on the web.
Bits on the run is a pay service that does all of this – and it’s reasonably priced. Notice that it’s not FREE. Depending on how many people download your videos – you might have some surprises. On the positive side it does let you control quite carefully the security (i.e. it’s not on YouTube with a kabazillion people able to watch your family) and it moves the videos to a close point on the web for viewers. Tie that into the web-site/blog security that’s already in place – and it’s pretty good all round.
Here are the points around the globe where videos are stored. This means that people in the US, Europe, Japan and Aus/NZ can view the videos with good performance.

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