I Interview with Ron Yekutiel, Chair, Co-Founder & CEO of Kaltura, and he gave his best sales pitch on why he says you should do an open-source online video platform (particularly theirs, of course.;-) But is an open-source video platform solution what you need, or for that matter, is it something that you can actually handle?  Read-on…

What is “open source”?

According to the Open Source Initiative, open source means more than access to the source code. Open-source also means that it’s “free” – that is, at no monetary cost to the user. That doesn’t mean that open source can’t be commercial. In fact, many open source software providers make their money by building up a large number of users on the free program, and then charging for the infrastructure and support around it to whoever needs it.

Contrast that with the some of the major providers in the online video platform (OVP) space, and their proprietary solutions; which require you to be a paid user with a high enough account status before you can gain access to their application programming interface (API), itself typically highly secured by the service provider to prevents unauthorized access to that API by non-account holders.

Besides free source code access, “open source” means other things as well.  Our founder Mark Robertson gave me his opinion of open source:

Open source can provide for several advantages which are realized when a significant user base collaborates to provide ongoing enhancements and support to the community of users.  In addition to potential cost benefits, there are advantages in terms of reliability, scalability, stability, flexibility and control.  That being said, a successful open source project does require a large and dedicated community of users and in most cases, those companies which adopt open source environments will require resource expertise in the set-up, integration and ongoing management.

About Kaltura – The Open-Source Video Platform Alternative

For a mini-brief on the company – Kaltura has positioned themselves in the industry as the “first and only open source video solution stack.” Kaltura’s claim is that their open-source approach is already bringing out a groundswell of innovation that makes high-end video solutions much more accessible to a larger number of publishers, who otherwise wouldn’t have the tools and resources available to do them. (Kaltura also appears to have a very robust community website with free tools, forums, and educational webinars to prop up their program.)

“We want to democratize the whole media space, tear down the walled gardens, and provide something that everybody can use – that’s affordable, that’s easy, that’s flexible.” Says Ron.

Ron also says that they boast the most rapid innovation rate over any other OVP – with over 1,000 developers in what he refers to as the “Kaltura Community,” building heaps of applications for everyone else. “It’s the most amount of flexibility in an OVP without a vendor lock-in for users.” Says Ron.

Kaltura advertises on their website that they have 43,600 publishers worldwide. It’s unclear however, how much of that number is made up of actual paying customers vs. free users. That being said, Kaltura does boast some mentionable client names, including Coca-Cola and Wikipedia. Also, they have been rated a “strong performer” in the OVP space by Forrester Wave research.

With the platform being free, Kaltura makes their money off their advertised value-added services to their platform users. These include custom design and development work, transcoding, hosting and streaming, content syndication, ad serving, aggregation of other 3rd party services, maintenance and support packages, stats, and yes – Video SEO.

Potential Challenges with Kaltura’s Open-Source Program

Kaltura says they want to “democratize” the online video space with their open-source video solution. Yet a successful democracy also requires a large enough population to participate. Can an open-source video program really be a solution for everyone? Or for that matter, a notably sizeable and sustainable community? (Let’s say, “Kalturians?”) Here’s my take :

  • Simple version has its limits. Kaltura does have many modules and plug-ins that are less difficult to implement and will work with tools like WordPress and Drupal. However, what you get is a limited module of their OVP. If you want the full OVP on your own server, it will require some work.
  • Programmers needed. If you want to implement the full thing – the Kaltura “CE System,” it’s going to require having someone that is well versed in LAMP (Linux, Apache 2.2, MySQL 5 and PHP 5.2.2+) – so a developer can take Kaltura’s source code and integrate it.
  • More IT resources needed? The full program will also require having a server/CDN that can support it and, most importantly – someone (a developer) to maintain, troubleshoot, upgrade, etcetera.

The Verdict

Can Kaltura’s open-source OVP really do everything that a closed-source provider can do? Unfortunately that’s not in my realm of knowledge to answer. Can it do some things better than a closed-source can? You’ll likely get differing opinions from developers on that one. Does it really have an “easy” solution that makes it accessible to a larger audience of video publishers? Yes, but I would say it appears to be heavily towards one type of audience – those with IT resources available. It would be interesting to find out if anybody without programming experience could actually build an successful video experience using just limited version of the Kaltura video program… and say it was “easy.”

But if that is the case, then I’m sure someone amongst the 43,600 publishers in the Kaltura community will let me know that real soon. ;)

So is this really a free solution? Maybe, if you have people who are willing to work for Cheetos.  But again, there is really no such thing as a “free” solution.  As Mark knows all to well, even this wordpress blog requires support.  As he put it, “free is not necessarily the point, flexibility and scalability are.  Even with an open source platform like wordpress, there are plenty of companies that provide hosting and management of wordpress blogs because not everyone has the time or resources to do it in house.”  Hence, Kaltura also provides paid services to for those that need that expertise.

As for whether to choose and open source video platform or a proprietary one, it all boils back down to your overall requirements and resources.  Only you can make the decision of what is more valuable to you, but we certainly think that it is worth considering all available options.

Thank you Ron for taking the time to talk with us at ReelSEO, and thanks for the shout out at the end of the video.