D for DRM

”I know why you did it. I know you were afraid. Who wouldn’t be? Piracy. Torrentz. Youtube… There were a myriad of problems which conspired to corrupt your reason and rob you of your common sense. Fear got the best of you and in your panic, you turned to the now High Chancellor Windows Media Player. He promised you protection. He promised you DRM. And all he demanded in return was your silent, obedient consent.”

And the truth is, there is something terribly wrong with this solution, isn’t there? ”

I have recently seen two online video broadcasting investments, which fear turned them into something that will be remembered as a legendary problematic user experience. The main reason of that problem was the usage of Microsoft Media Player and its Digital Rights Management system. In those video portals, we were forced to watch the videos in Media Player instead of any better and user friendly alternative like flash video or etc… But can we really blame these companies? What are the alternative ways of DRM instead of forcing people to use WMP? I have made some research and seen that non-innovative companies didn’t have many alternatives until the recent times. Recently, both Microsoft and Adobe are aware of this problem and they are trying to include a DRM system into the Silverlight and Adobe Flash Player. If Microsoft manages to bring DRM to Silverlight, this might bring a competitive advantage to Silverlight against Adobe Flash because Microsoft has great amount of DRM experience.

The fear of Digital Rights management is something really serious. Many firms, including the two example –TTNET video and DigiturkWebTV, suffers deeply from this fear. On one hand, we have TTNET-Video, a video-portal which is really a bad experience. TTnet Video does not only suffer from Media Player usage, but also from some incredibly hard register-login system. On the other hand, we have DigiturkWebTV which is also not a pleasant user experience but in that case, since they provide live streaming(not to Turkey) and High Quality video download options, we can say they had some reasons for what they did. Still, forcing people for WMP11 is not a very good solution.

If you are to remember the story in which Sony did fall behind in the digital music industry as it was trying to enforce its DRM-enabled codec Atrac-3 instead of MP3, you might have a feeling of the importance of this topic.

Two online video broadcasting investments in Turkey, TTNET video and DigiturkWebTV tries to achieve things in the order of:

1-Protect the Content!

2-Make sure we did protect the content!

3-Deliver a good user experience.

4-Check if we had protected the content!

As you can see, user experience, which were supposed to be in the first place are now in the 3rd or 4th place.

My heart really wishes for media without DRM; however that is another issue to discuss about. In order to focus, let’s say we all love DRM and we all want to protect our precious videos from the bad-pirates.

Why Does Firms Choose Microsoft DRM?

It is a fact that Microsoft is the big guy. It has excellent sales teams and support systems nearly in all countries. In the business field, if you are a big guy, and if you don’t have the resources to develop your own innovative solution, you might want to co-operate with another big guy even though there might be better alternatives from small-guys. This is indeed very natural because most of the time, a big guy can only trust another big guy due to the support they will provide and their professional work. So when a company like TTNET and Digiturk looks for a DRM solution, Microsoft is there to provide support. It is hard to expect those big guys take risks or be agile enough to try other solutions. Especially if we are talking about TTNET, that’s nearly impossible  : )

Lets be honest, in the end a partnership deal is signed by the big boss of a company. Would that company be lucky enough to have a boss who can choose an innovative and risk-taking solution? Or would he do something that is comfortable like choosing another Big player?

Also many firms choose to out-source encoding work. They send the videos and some other firm encodes them into any format and hosts them. Most of the time, these firms are the ones that recommend a DRM system.

There are some flash video and other alternatives but most of them are very new and not fully tested. At least, they are not from the ‘big guys’

Below, there are the two links you can find information about both Microsoft and Adobe are trying to put DRM into their products: Silverlight and Flash player.

It seems like it will be hard to see a good implemented DRM solution which doesn’t use Media Player until the end of 2009.

However, accepting that it is hard to implement a better DRM system doesn’t say that it is impossible to do so. There are, of corse some alternatives and any firm who are aware that user experience is vital in a video portal project should look for those. Furthermore, if the company has the resources to develop a new system that will fully satisfy their needs and also brings great user experience, they should at least consider it. When I look at TTNET video, I feel sorry to see that big amount of money is wasted. On the other hand, WMP still has some advantages like being able to download and watch high quality videos but building your portal only on WMP is a HUGE mistake.

For anyone interested on a successful video portal that brings downloadable content – a little bit of DRM and recommendation system, check Veoh! It is one of my favorite. (However it is not reachable from Turkey any more)

I don’t really like Microsoft’s ”me too” strategy of duplicating every popular technology with Microsoft brand, but this time, I have hopes for Silverlight. Microsoft promisses for HD resolution, DRM, Multi-platform support and etc… Also, enabling Silverlight support on Xbox360 might be a right step of bringing IPTV to livingrooms.







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