A Brief History of Web Video

March 3, 2015 Erin Upton

A few weeks ago I had coffee with a colleague of mine (let’s call her Tanya) whom I’ve known since the 90s. Somewhat predictably, the conversation turned from a game of ‘co-worker where-are-they-now’ to our kids, and eventually, to current trends in technology. We spoke of what we were doing when we first worked together — and we remembered being very excited about not only the web, but about video on the web. Thinking about it now, it’s kind of amazing that we were even thinking about bringing video to the web in those early days.

We remembered how excited we were to stream a postage stamp-sized video through our company’s website, and how many IT arms we had to twist to help us get it done. Strategically, we had no idea what we were actually trying to achieve with video. The fact that we were able to do it was more than enough to justify the effort. Conversions be damned.

Snapchat Discover Which brings us to the big video news of the week: Snapchat launched something called Discover. Wait. What? Yes, Snapchat, the social platform millennials seem to love and everyone else pretends to understand, introduced what might be the smartest, yet most anti-social news and content curation service we’ve seen in quite some time. Here’s how it works, or at least, how I understand it. Discover resides within Snapchat, and is comprised of a collection of branded content apps — Vice, Yahoo (with, ahem, Katie Couric at the helm), and Cosmopolitan among them. Snapchat Discover Launch one of these channel-like apps and swipe right and left to move from one video (or story, there are some text and photo-based stories in there too) to the next. One thing you’ll probably notice fairly quickly — none of the videos / stories have been liked or shared by your Snapchat friends. They’re just there. Produced and curated by the app channel to deliver to you what they think are the most important stories of the day. Really? Yes, really, just like old fashioned newspaper editors used to do. Interesting. So what’s so great about Discover, how does it relate to our first foray into video for the web, and why should I care? For me, it’s a shining example of how pervasive video has become, and how it’s perceived. You find video on every platform and application imaginable. Video has become an expected, rather than an accepted delivery medium. People want to watch, they want to be entertained as they’re informed.

When faced with the choice of reading this ~700 word blog post, or watching someone attractive and eloquent read it to them in moving picture form, which do you think they’d choose? Don’t answer that. Keep reading! So, back to 1998. The video resolution we were putting online was pretty grim, and audio was not entirely unlike tin. By today’s standards, what we did was unwatchable. Back then, I was actually of the opinion that video was actually getting in the way of content. It took too long for even the smallest files to buffer, and even though our attention spans were measurably longer than they are now, I felt people wouldn’t wait. (Hey, I may have been right, I may have been wrong. After all, there was no way to measure such things back then.)

Fast forward 17 years and we have access to all manner of media in our pockets. Whatever you want, whenever you want or need it. Measuring Video with Vidyard And did I mention you can measure it, and measure it beyond what YouTube can provide? That’s what a company called Vidyard does. Their platform lets you take complete control of your video, and keep your site visitors where they belong — on your site. Vidyard does what I could only dream of in ’98, telling you who’s watching, what they’re watching, and for how long they’re watching. Vidyard can even tell you what parts of your video are being skipped, and which parts are being watched again.

Better still, Vidyard connects to platforms like Marketo, allowing you to further track and nurture prospects through to conversion. Vidyard pushes your site’s video viewing history directly into your Marketo activity log to see which leads are watching specific content, and for how long. Use this data to segment, nurture and score leads effectively with even more automated and highly personalized content. So there’s that raison d’etre we were looking for back in the day. From postage stamp-sized video in 1998, to device agnostic, fully trackable, sales pipeline-friendly streaming HD today, video has come a long way. That was easy, right? P.S. Tanya wrote about her first foray into streaming web video over on her super-great blog. You should read it!


Mike_Desat_300Mike is a seasoned, customer-focused communications professional with twenty years of experience in the consumer and enterprise software industry. Mike has written and produced content in a variety of forms for the likes of IBM, Cognos, Yahoo, Protus Solutions, Halogen Software, CrossKeys, Corel and Webhancer. Mike has lead cross-functional teams across all levels of various organizations, proving his value as a creative asset and leader.

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