Streaming media hailed

By Ashlee Vance, IDG News Service |  Software

SAN JOSE, CALIF. -- Yahoo's front man Jerry Yang kicked off the second day of the Streaming Media West event held here Wednesday maintaining that streaming media has reached a critical mass.

Like many, the company co-founder and chief yahoo (his real title) tied the growth of streaming media to the availability of broadband access. Users with high connectivity tend to frequent more Web sites, make more purchases, and take advantage of media applications more often. For a content aggregator such as Yahoo, more broadband users translate into more cash.

Yang feels enough broadband users have now arrived to warrant heightened attention to streaming media.

"There is a transition away from the good old early adopters to the mass audience," he said. "We do really believe delivering media over the Web is reaching critical mass."

In order to keep up with user demand, Yang called for better software and hardware in the streaming arena.

"I think there is a lot of room for improvement in terms of software," he said. "One company cannot make everything happen. We have to work with each other. Consumers' expectations are rising, and they are demanding about the quality of the media they receive. I think we have only seen a glimpse of what can happen in the future."

Yang said Yahoo has taken the approach of maximizing the software and hardware advancements already present but warned true progress can only come via media format standards, improved encoding, and better archiving techniques.

Yahoo released a new Webcast Studio product Wednesday that updates its current streaming media services. The Santa Clara, Calif.-based company already helps sports leagues, radio and television stations, and others put their streaming content on the Web. The Webcast Studio contains many of Yahoo's previous media functions but adds automatic detection of a user's media player and optimal Internet connection speed.

Parts of the updated service are targeted at corporate users. Webcast Studio will give companies holding online events, such as press conferences, the ability to poll users, show slides, and take audience questions all during the Webcast. Customers will additionally be able to track how many users attended the event.

Yang called the Webcast Studio product an out-of-the-box software application that helps automate the creation of media.

"Once people start to realize that they can take advantage of the technology to become their own content creators, the possibilities are tremendous," he said.

Ashlee Vance is a San Francisco-based reporter at IDG News Service, an InfoWorld affiliate.

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