Tag Archives: iPlayer

BBC streams video the Microsoft way

I was invited a few months ago to test the BBC iPlayer. I quite liked the idea and I’m very interested in everything streaming. I also tested Joost and Zattoo.

Unfortunately when the BBC decided to send me the invitation I had a Mac laptop and my computer at home was running Vista, !@”#$. Obviously the player doesn’t work with Mac OS. I wasn’t, however, expecting the application not to work with Vista. When I tried to activate the application I was greeted by an error popup telling me that the system works only with Internet Explorer on Windows XP. Fair enough.

iPlayer web interfaceI have now switched back to good old XP and am ready to test this player. Still no Firfox, I opened IE and logged in the BBC site with my beta account. Beautiful web interface, which works fine with Firefox too. After installing the small application an icon appears in the systray which is called: “Your Library”. Say what? I thought all BBC content was part of my library and I just had to click on any video to have it streamed to me instantly.

Apparently not. Opening the “Library” just says: you have nothing. Ok, so back to the BBC website with my newly installed IE plugin. Click on the new episode of Little Britain and right away the site told me that the video was being downloaded. Again, my only reaction is “Say what?”. So back to the library window, which is not even an application but a small popup running the IE engine with the BBC plugin to access your system information. This bright pink window is telling me that a 300 MB video is being downloaded and I had 500 MB of space on my hard drive allocated for the library.

My video is now here, excellent, click on play now. Another small IE-powered popup opens and, disguised under a customized interface, Windows Media Player starts playing the video, a bit slow though, but you can’t expect much from WMP. Oh yeah, almost forgot, my license for the video expires in 3 days then it’s a useless 300 MB file.

Now I don’t pretend to know any better than the BBC people working on this. They must have thought it through quite thoroughly. I do have a few questions though.

  1. Only windows XP and IE? Ever heard of flash? YouTube? Anybody? How about Mac users? Linux? Vista?
  2. Download a 300 MB file that I have to trash after 3 days? Planning to save on your Bandwidth anytime soon?
  3. Ever heard of streaming using P2P technology to save aforementioned bandwidth and offer more content? Seriously you should check out Joost, they started developing their application before you did.

Please, please have a look at Joost. Multi-platform, more content and less bandwidth usage because we stream to each other using BitTorrent‘s P2P technology. Maybe Janus Friis and Niklas Zennström will take pity on you and give you a small channel on their platform to share your content, if you ask nicely.

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