Mobile’s New Frontier: Optimized Video

The mobile market continues to grow as we head into 2011. Specifically, the smartphone market has seen an enormously robust 96% growth rate from Q3 2009 to Q3 2010. According to the October 2010 market data from Nielsen, Apple’s iOS (27.9%) and Google’s Android (27.9%) platforms command the largest share of high-end, media-capable smartphones. While operating system version weren’t accounted for, it can be assumed these numbers represent a majority of the most recent firmware iterations for each respective platform, which support the latest web technologies. And considering the data supporting the next desired smartphone operating systems by mobile users, these numbers are likely to grow against competitive platforms like RIM’s Blackberry, Windows Mobile 7, WebOS, and Symbian.

What about mobile video consumption on these devices? Huge. Mobile video is used by approximately 11% of global online consumers according to Nielsen’s report in August. Rhythm NewMedia’s key mobile video findings for Q3 2010 saw video retention on mobile devices higher (at 94% in the first ten seconds) than traditional online video (81%). Even full episode viewing on mobile devices grew 20%.

But mobile video isn’t all peachy. Devices and operating systems are splintered. Technological capabilities are splintered. Yet the conflict isn’t between devices—it’s an accessibility conflict. And your mobile video SEO efforts are detrimentally affected by the technical accessibility of these increasingly popular, powerful platforms. Video via websites won’t work on dumbphones, and it won’t work on previous generations of smartphones. It works on modern platforms with modern browsers, and the users you’ll find there are the users you want seeing your video content. According to the latest numbers, there are droves of these users and they’re hungry for content.

From Containers To Conduits

The last couple years have seen a heroic change in the way video is handled across websites. For a long time, the best method of getting video to a viewer’s screen was to put it inside of a run-time environment. Flash emerged as the preferred technology to do this, and its use as a plug-in to browsers has helped shape both the advertising and media industries on the web. But the proliferation of powerful web-browsing mobile devices has changed the situation, and has prompted an entirely new era for media consumption.

While the largest video hosting services are serving video through both a Flash container and via native HTML5 video, if you choose to leverage Flash, Silverlight, or a third-party video service independently, you need to ensure there is an alternative method of viewing the video in a container appropriate for video. Certain platforms are working with Adobe to improve the Flash experience on their devices, but the initial results aren’t promising, and can be even more frustrating for your visitors than is necessary. If you plan on providing video assets for mobile traffic you need to consider the bulletproof standards.

Consider the original call to action for video presentation change across so many high-profile sites: the iOS’s native browser, Safari. For reasons that don’t necessarily need to be addressed here, Apple refrained from supporting Flash in its mobile browser. But its browser, and its Webkit framework, permitted it access to the latest HTML5 spec that included native video and audio support. Webkit—originally derived from a fork of KHTML back in 1998—is a layout engine for rendering web pages. It has since been adopted by several entities, is comprised of powerful JavaScript and rendering cores, and enables support for the latest specs of HTML5 and CSS3. Leveraged by the native browser in most modern smartphone operating systems, Webkit helps power the way the web is perceived on devices running iOS, Android, BlackBerry 6 and WebOS.

Since many of the popular mobile device platforms support HTML5, more pressure from the development communities has been applied to video sites to leverage HTML5 containers and codecs. Now that Flash isn’t a necessary component for video, video coders need to consider the standardized options made available by HTML5 support (which guarantees that their videos will work on the most popular and capable mobile devices). Unfortunately, this isn’t as clear cut as it sounds, and I encourage you to read Mark Pilgram’s Dive Into HTML5, which covers encoding video and coding your site appropriately for video detection by browser capability. Mobile lucks out, though—we know what kind of video/audio containers and codecs are supported in Webkit browsers, and we can make absolute suggestions for using HTML5 video tags (namely H.264, AAC, and MP4).

Part two of this article, coming soon, will address mobile video SEO and ways to strategically leverage your parent site for your mobile site.

Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.

Related Topics: Channel: Video | Video Search

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About The Author: specializes in increasing visibility and traffic to large retail, publisher, lead generation, and financial Web sites as the Vice President of Client Services for Performics.

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