I was talking to a friend in the US the other day about Web 2.0 and the resurgence of the Internet. He made an interesting remark. He said that unlike 1999, when everything to do with the Internet was hot, this time around, it is primarily only things with the word video in them. Video is finally happening on the Internet both from professional sources and amateurs equipped with digital cameras and mobiles. For users, the broadband connections are finally being put to good use. Even in India, SifyMax has taken an early lead in bringing video to the few hundred thousand connections that they have.
Video on the Internet is where text was in 1995. The tools to publish and browse were made available, and created a positive feedback loop for adoption. Now, the same thing is happening with video. Even though it is still a challenge in India, I do expect that to change with the increase in broadband usage and video servers in data centres closer to users. From an Indian perspective, what we will see is India-centric video available first internationally where broadband is available.
This is, again, similar to what happened in 1995. Then, I had launched IndiaWorld as a portal for Indians outside India. (Commercial Internet access came to India about five months after we launched.) This time around, companies like Rajshri Media (in which I have an investment) will take Indian video content to audiences globally. Then, as broadband becomes more widely available in India, the domestic traffic will start rising. In India, a number of telcos are planning to launch IP-TV services over the next few months.
Video will also come to mobile phones in fact, it has already started. Short clips of movies, ranging from 30 seconds to a few minutes, are already available for download across many Indian mobile operators. Mobile TV can manifest itself in another form through direct terrestrial broadcasting much like FM is available on many mobiles phones.
The one interesting element in the growth of video is the role of user-generated content. In the past six months, sites like YouTube have shot up in popularity. Google and Yahoo have launched their own video initiatives. Apples video iPod is a popular consumption device. The huge blue ocean of video archives from TV and movies is starting to come online. Every sports event causes an upsurge of interest and brings it with millions of new video consumers on the Internet.
These are the early days of video to the Internet. There are multiple business models being experimented with. It is not clear whether video on the Internet will be subsidized by advertising like much of the text Internet. What is clear, though, is that the ultimate form of human expression is set to begin its reign on the Internet. It should be good for content owners and users, and eventually, businesses who can communicate their messages in a more targeted form to users. It is time to get ready for the Videonet!
Tomorrow: New Media