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Zencoder serves HTML5 video freedom in spades

Leg up for Video.JS and Google WebM

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Open video on the web is getting a boost, with a service that can shovel tens of thousands of files onto the net for consumption via the new open-source player Video.JS as well as Google's royalty free WebM codec.

Amazon-EC2 based Zencoder has rolled out a service for transcoding thousands of video files and spitting them out for use by wide variety of codecs and players. Files are converted using Amazon's multithreaded servers, and Zencoder works with files on Amazon's S3, Heroku (a fellow Amazon squatter, and Rackspace-hosted sites.

For Zencoder, which started in 2010 with an API to transcode video files individually, bulk conversion is a big bet on the growing demand for video online .

Chief executive Jon Dahl told us: "Every single video you ever see on the web, mobile or TV has to go through the process we do. Our investors think that number is going grow."

Those investors have so-far committed $2m in Series A funding, and they include former Googler and Twitter investor Christopher Sacca; the head of Google's webspam team, Matt Cutts; and Andreessen-Horowitz, home to former Netscape kid Mark Andreessen, who deftly made Microsoft's Steve Ballmer look like a corporate rube on his company's $8.5bn Skype deal.

If video is the future and customers decide they need to shovel new and back catalogs of video online, then Zencoder will give a serious leg up to the open-source Video.JS video player that Zencoder co-founder Steve Hefferman created. Video.JS is one of an expanding stable of open-source video players, with 30,000 downloads in the last six months.

The idea behind Video.JS is that it presents HTML5 video on any device and in any browser. Developers don't need to re-skin or modify the video for each platform, either by working with the basic HTML5 video tag or by needing to adapt to each browser maker's HTML5 extensions for Safari, Firefox, Opera, Chrome, and Internet Explorer.

Video.JS comes with a set of unified tools to skin the video player and add universal controls and features such as pause, play, and full-screen mode – and to switch between different steams. These capabilities all exist in the HTML5 spec, but you need to fiddle with the code to make work. Video.JS can handle all sorts of video codecs – new, old, open and closed – such as MP4, WebM, and Ogg.

"We are big believes in open source software and saw a big need for this," Dahl told us of Video.JS. He reckons Video.JS is vital for "anyone who wants to support HTML5 in the browser or wants the same web page to display video on the web and on mobile."

Dahl sees a big crossover for existing Zencoder users - the start up claims 400 customers, including newbie TwitVid and veteran public-service broadcaster PBS. "A lot of customers using Zencoder are using Video.JS and vice versa, which from a business perspective makes sense."

Video.JS might be agnostic on codec, but Zencoder's also taking steps to advance the cause of open video online by giving a boost to WebM.

WebM was released as an open-source and royalty free codec by Google last year, after the giant bought creator On2 Technologies. WebM stands in contrast to the H.264, whose technology is licensed by Apple, Microsoft and others via the licensing authority MPEGLA.

H.264 is widely used online and on devices. Apple and Microsoft play HTML5 video in the latest version of their browsers using H.264. Google has pledged to remove H.264 from Chrome, but it has not yet pulled the trigger. Chrome also uses WebM, as does Firefox and Opera.

As part of its new, bulk transcoding service's launch, Zencoder has cut the price of encoding to WebM in half. You can view the company's list of prices here. Dahl said in a separate statement announcing the bulk transcoding service that WebM is "an integral part" of HTML5. ®

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