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AppRising delivers insight into new broadband applications, exploring their impact on networks and their implications for public policy.

AppRising is written by Geoff Daily, who covers broadband applications and the business of online video. Based in Washington, DC, Geoff regularly advises applications developers, network operators, community leaders, and public officials on how to maximize adoption and use of the Internet.

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November 6, 2007 7:55 AM

Akamai HD Revisited: I'm Officially Agog

Last week I wrote about a marketing effort by leading content delivery network Akamai to promote their HD video capabilities.

Unfortunately at the time I was limited by the bandwidth constraints of my wireless Verizon AirCard (typically between 500-750Kbps), and therefore unable to experience HD video as the site wouldn't even attempt to serve it to me.

After finally getting my high speed Comcast connection up and running on Friday, I decided to revisit this to see what Akamai-delivered HD video actually looks like.

(long pause) Wow, I'm at a loss for words. I've been staring at the screen trying to find a way to capture how overwhelmed I am with excitement but nothing seems to quite do these feelings justice.

For anyone who hasn't already checked this out, I recommend you do so immediately, but only if you're on an Internet connection of at least 3-5Mbps. That should be sufficient for you to experience their lower res preview video.

Even that is simply remarkable. It stretches across the whole screen. It's crystal clear. It doesn't stutter and sputter. The colors are rich and deep. The visual impact has depth.

If you've got a connection in the 6-10Mbps range, go ahead and give the 720p video a try. My 8Mbps Comcast connection only paused once in a 44 minute episode of CSI.

And the video...oh the video...is unbelievably good. I mean, really, it's unfathomable how good it is.

This is the biggest leap forward in the quality of online video that I've ever experienced. It's a much bigger jump than from postage stamp to the business card, or even the business card to the napkin in terms of the size of the video window.

This is full screen, HD video that starts playing back almost instantly.

I think perhaps the impact of this was felt even more strongly by me as I have yet to take the HD plunge with my TV, so what I found most remarkable was that not only was the video quality competitive with TV, it surpassed it.

I was getting higher quality video over the Internet than on my TV.

I can't stress enough how revolutionary I find this to be.

That being said, delivering video at this quality is far from standard practice in the industry today.

I'm actually working on an article now for StreamingMedia.com that explores why the push towards higher bitrate video seems to have slowed down over the last year or two while consumer bandwidth continues increasing.

A major trend I've discovered is that delivering HD video can be much more expensive than standard definition video. The easy way to think about this is that the higher resolution the video, the more bits that need to be sent over the Internet, the more money it costs to deliver that video.

And at this point the online video marketplace is so nascent that there just aren't that many successful business models that can support full screen standard def video, let alone HD.

But that being said, when I revisited Akamai's HD showcase site last night, it was undoubtedly one of the most transformative experiences I've ever had online.

Internet video can now rival TV in terms of picture quality. Some said it'd never happen, but it has and we're here and I couldn't be more excited for it.


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