Posted by: kurtsh | September 18, 2006

BETA: “Warhol” is coming!

UPDATE 11:59PM:
Just got told that, YES, in fact both Flash formats & Windows Media formats are stored on the backend for the most optimal viewing experience for the visiting user depending on their computing platform and depending upon their web browser’s capabilities.   Yay!

UPDATE 11:05PM: 
Well, uh, I had no idea anyone ever even read my blog outside of my customers.  My bad.  Some folks linked to this entry and I guess Soapbox is the hot new thing for a lot of folks in the media and they’re getting RSS notifications on ANYTHING that even remotely mentions Soapbox.

Couple major corrections – I’ve been told recently by [GULP] the General Manager of MSN Video that both Mac users and Firefox users will in fact get a Flash-based interface which will allow them to view the content stored by people using the site, while Windows users will get Windows Media-based interface.

…which says something really cool about the technology used in Soapbox.  The content is transcoded into both Flash & Windows Media formats and stored simultaneously on Microsoft’s backend.  This might mean lot or storage is required but it also means less bandwidth is consumed for Windows users.  (I’ll explain why that’s relevant in a second)

Why is that cool?   Why should I care as a Windows user?

It’s cool because that means that Soapbox is the only site I know of that provides the most optimal content viewing experience for Windows users for all its content.  Instead of "generic-izing" the content format to a lowest common denominator format for everyone to view in, it provides an experience that is clearest and most bandwidth friendly for Windows users, which let’s be honest, are the majority of the users out there.

What do you mean "most optimal"?  Give me some examples, please.

Well, okay here’s a few.  Windows Media streams are "thinner" meaning that buffering (that initial "please wait while your video is loading") is minimized.  Also thinner streams means less bandwidth congestion on Microsoft’s side, and while you might not care about Microsoft’s concerns, you might care that you get a good, snappy response time from the Soapbox site, and that’s predicated on there being lots of bandwidth available.  Thinner streams equals a snappier, more responsive web site.

And in any case, even though Warhol is effectively doubling the amount of space required on the backend, disk is cheap.  Bandwidth is expensive… and the Warhol/Soapbox folks have chosen to save bandwidth over disc.  Smart move.

And then there’s the little thing called Windows Media 9 codec.  Windows Media 9 was such a good format for encoding media that it’s in both Blu-Ray & HD-DVD specifications for high definition video.  To be certain, a lot of very smart people acknowledged Windows Media 9’s excellence through its inclusion in the HD-DVD & Blu-Ray specs.  More importantly to you however is the fact that Windows Media 9 just plain LOOKS GREAT relative to other formats out there.

There’s a lot more to it but the easiest way to describe the benefits of Windows Media are to simply look at all the media format related features inside of Windows Media Player. 

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ORIGINAL POST:
"Warhol", is going to be released as MSN Soapbox.  It’s been in the press for a while and if you don’t know what Warhol or Soapbox is, just do a Live Search on it.

I’ve been working with Warhol for the past couple of months and I really like it.  It’s a glitzier version of Putfile that uses Windows Media, which has been my mainstay for hosting content for a long time.  The community is pretty active and the interface is superb.

In case you’re wondering, Warhol has only been accessible by Microsoft employees from Microsoft’s internal network, hence the reason there hasn’t been any screenshots or anything published on the web. Suffice it to say, they’re going to announce it tomorrow so everyone will get the chance to take a look at it.  It’s really bandwidth efficient, you can "copy" the cotent locally to your own machine if you have the right tools (instead of using some proprietary wrapper around it like you do with Google), it’s optimized to your network speed, and doesn’t require any plug ins or anything.

Needless to say that I’ll be moving over to Soapbox/Warhol and hope all you Windows users will join me.


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