One of the big problems on the internet is the fact that by far the vast majority of people use slow dial-up connections. In spite of all of the hoopla about DSL and Cable, perhaps 90% to 95% of all of the people in the United States are still on dial-up. In addition, most of the rest of the planet has not been wired for high speed access and probably will not be for some time.
This introduces a real problem to companies that want to sell or distribute multimedia on the web. How do you do that without requiring downloads that are hours (and even days) long? Many users will wait an hour or two for their favorite Britney Spears video, but they may not be as willing (or as able) to wait for a movie trailer or sound clip. And very, very few people will wait for an advertisement, even if the video is wonderful.
Many video standards were created in an effort to overcome this basic problem. Two different philosophies arose: streaming and non-streaming. In streaming video (and audio) you don’t have to wait for the entire movie to download; the movie begins playing as soon as enough of it has been received by your system to begin. Non-streaming, on the other hand, must be fully downloaded in order to be played.
In 1995, a company call RealNetworks created a new standard for streaming audio and released a program called RealAudio. At first this was used to distribute pre-recorded information. On September 5th 1995, the first live broadcast using RealAudio was the Seattle Mariners vs. The New York Yankees game.
Over the years since, RealNetworks has constantly and aggressively upgraded their technology to include video as well, and to allow for a paid and subscription model.
Distribution of a free player (an upgraded paid version) was one of the primary reasons that the Real format became so popular so fast. In addition, Real videos and sound files could be played on Macintosh and Windows systems, making it more cross-platform capable than the competition.
The RealNetworks formats are proprietary, which means only that the company and authorized agents may use them. You can purchase the software to create audio and video Real format files, but they are not cheap.
Personally, I am not very fond of this format. I find the constant, nagging updates to be extremely annoying. It is very disconcerting to have purchased Real Player 7 and find that I cannot view Real Player 8 videos without downloading the new FREE version (I would have to pay an upgrade fee to get the paid version). This version mismatch seems to happen much too often and is so annoying that I have actually removed the player from my own system.
I visited the web site recently (www.real.com) and found that it’s very different from the one I saw years ago. It’s obvious that some marketing people have been hard at work. For example, it used to be that you could find mention of the free version of the player directly on the front page. Now I have to search for over 15 minutes until I find a link to the earlier version (I got the distinct impression that the newer versions are not free).
I also have a problem with download and installation procedures that ask me to purchase additional products (lots of them) by default (I have to turn them off explicitly), ask for too many options about what they can do and seem to be trying much to hard to sell me additional things. I’m sorry, all I want to do is download the silly player so I can see that Osama Bin Laden video, not purchase a gold subscription to this and access to that, and oh yes, can they send me this and that and this and that? Jeez.
As a webmaster, I cannot say that I would feel comfortable putting Real video and audio content onto my site. While the technology is sound, I think I’ll stick with formats that do not require so much work and so many decisions on the part of my audience.
Richard Lowe Jr. is the webmaster of Internet Tips And Secrets at http://www.internet-tips.net – Visit our website any time to read over 1,000 complete FREE articles about how to improve your internet profits, enjoyment and knowledge.