Media Myth Busters: Urban Legends of User Experience

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Prabakar_SundarrajanPrabakar Sundarrajan, CTO and co-founder of Ankeena Networks talks about the online video delivery experience, myths, and expectations.

The new media user experience, specifically video, leaves a lot to be desired.  With the huge growth of online media, end-users are able to view their media content on several different formats, through several different outlets and whatever time they want to.  The population has become so regularly wired that often, online video viewers are bombarded with staggering delays and annoying pauses on their videos.

While online video is continuing to rise, it’s no surprise that the average viewer has come to accept the current hiccups that online video has to offer.  Yet, rather than succumb to urban legends of the user experience being poor quality, today’s users should demand a higher quality of experience for rich content and streaming media.

In this article I will dispel five popular beliefs surrounding the video user experience. These myths will discuss the challenges faced by online media delivery and will explain the technology factors, viewing habits and content characteristics fueling these myths.  The article will take a closer look at the following myths:

  1. Any online video worth seeing is worth waiting for
  2. Start/stop buffering is normal for streaming media
  3. The smaller the image, the better the quality
  4. All video is created equal
  5. Quality of experience will suffer for multiple concurrent users

Any Online Video Worth Seeing is Worth Waiting For

Videos are being delivered on-demand as well as instantaneously under the control of the user.  Average viewers are taking hold of their online viewing experience and are able to watch what they want, where they want to, and when they want.  Media providers must be able to provide their users with these on-demand media experiences or there is a high chance of losing the customer base.  Due to current issues with provide on-demand online videos, end-users have come to terms with waiting for their videos – which simply means that nothing online is on-demand.

Start/stop Buffering is Normal for Streaming Media

Regardless of how a user is receiving their video format or whatever amount of bandwidth is used, it is expected that the video will be of equal quality to that of standard television format.  Users want a video connection that is smooth and without any annoying delays.  However, high quality video is often interrupted with buffering delays and stops because of unsolicited network connections, media sharing server congestion, or the result of last mile bandwidth sharing.  End-users simply sit and wait for the buffering to finish up before continuing their online experience.  The annoying delays have become a normal, acceptable online viewing occurrence.

The Smaller the Image, the Better the Quality

There is no question that a smaller image has a better online quality.  When watching online videos, the larger the image the grainer the picture and the harder it is to view it clearly. Additionally, when the end-user expands the image online, it leads to the annoying buffering pauses and delays and an overall frustrating viewing experience.  In an effort to receive the greatest viewing quality, users have come to expect only small pictures.  For these end-users, the small the image may be harder on the eyes but at least they can visually make out the images on the screen.

All Video is Created Equal

With cell phones getting smarter and smarter, it is very common to see people watching full-length videos, YouTube clips, or a live stream on their handhelds.  This has created a whole new level of problems for mobile networks and content delivery providers.  Internet TV that was built to handle data networks is growing daily.  And with more and more people consuming media on the Internet with different devices, such as the latest iPhone, BlackBerry or other popular smart phones, it has left a hole in the data networks.  Network providers are still getting accustomed to providing data on these handhelds and now need to figure out how to support video as well.

Quality of experience will suffer for multiple concurrent users

In the average household, it is now very common to have multiple screens.  Media providers consistently work hard to deliver video at a high quality of resolution (higher bit rate encoding) which in turn not only increases the Internet traffic but puts a large load on the datacenter infrastructure.  As mentioned, the increase in video players within households has increased the delivery costs and infrastructure for media providers and plainly does not line up with new and existing revenue models.  Because of network congestion, average households are forced to schedule out their online usage and limit the number of concurrent users.

Proven Solution That Dispels All Myths

While the average online viewer deals with these five myths regularly – it no longer has to be the standard online media practice.  End-users are now able to expect a high quality, TV-like viewing experience with out faltering on their video availability, size and/or format.

Currently content owners, media publishers and distributors face challenges in delivering a consistent and reliable new media experience to their customers – which in turn has left the end-user expecting nothing more than a poor quality online viewing experience.  Network traffic, varying bit rates, viewer devices and viewing habits, along with huge bandwidth demands all fuel this challenge forcing them to add costs by over provisioning their infrastructures.  In order to maintain their customer base, these organizations need to provide open solutions that deliver a complete, television-like quality of experience with massive scale and a very low cost per media stream.

New solutions enables media providers to engage new and larger audiences without disrupting their existing infrastructure.  They are no longer trapped between the increasing demands of their customers and the constraints imposed by their delivery infrastructure.  Furthermore, content owners and publishers are able to improve their value proposition and better monetize online video and other new media, driving customer loyalty, adding high-value services and attracting advertisers along with higher ad rates.

Overall, it’s important to understand that a poor online viewing experience does not have to exist.  Online video users must learn to expect a high-quality, TV-like viewing experience available to them whenever they want and however they want to view it.  Solutions are in place for this experience, it’s just a matter of dispelling the urban legends of the user experience.

About our Expert Guest
ankeena_logoPrabakar Sundarrajan defines Ankeena Network’s corporate strategy and the technology strategy underlying its media delivery infrastructure solutions. Prior to co-founding Ankeena, Sundarrajan was at Citrix Systems, driving the technology vision, product strategy and architecture of the company’s Application Networking Group. Sundarrajan joined Citrix via its acquisition of NetScaler Inc., where he served as CTO and EVP of Strategic Planning and Corporate Development.

Prior to Netscaler, Sundarrajan was a member of the founding team and senior vice president of Technology at Exodus Communications. Sundarrajan has over 20 years of leadership experience in the hi-tech industry where he has held a variety of executive positions spanning engineering, marketing and business strategy. Sundarrajan serves on the board of directors and/or technical advisory board of several companies and is a charter member of The Indus Entrepreneurs (TiE). Sundarrajan holds an M.S. in Computer Science from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst and B.S. in Computer Science from the Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore.


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