February 02, 2012, 8:20 AM — Yesterday we talked a bit about Hulu, and today we're back on Netflix. Two unrelated stories caught my eye yesterday and I wanted to share them with you.
First up, an excellent piece by VentureBeat's Tim Cheredar about Netflix and Facebook. If you're in the US, you can't currently connect your Netflix account to your Facebook account. You can do it with Spotify or Hulu or Goodreads or any of a seemingly endless number of similar services, but not Netflix. Why? Because Netflix is considered a video rental service and there's a law from 1988, the Video Privacy Protection Act (VPPA), that prevents Netflix (or any video rental company) from sharing your video rental history, even if you say it's OK to do so. (This is probably also why there's never been a way to share your movie queue with your friends on the Netflix site.)
It's a silly law as written, right? Why is the government dictating this interaction between me and a company I do business with? If I want to put my rental queue on Facebook, well that seems like a decision between me and Netflix and Uncle Sam has no place in that conversation.
Last month the House of Representatives passed an updated version of the VPPA that would allow us to opt-in to sharing our rental history. But it sounds like the Senate is working to block the amended law. One of the prime opposers is Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) who, surprise, wrote the VPPA back in 1988. For more details on Senate opposition I'll refer you to Cheredar's piece over at VB.
Next up is a story I read over at GigaOM about EyeIO, a startup working in video encoding. EyeIO has announced that it's been working with Netflix to reduce the bandwidth required to stream video. The two companies started working together last summer.
Two of the technical challenges Netflix faces in various parts of the world are bandwidth caps and limited network speed. EyeIO's technology can help with both of these by reducing the size of a video stream. As an example, Netflix's 720 HD streams consume roughly 3.8 Mbps. EyeIO's encoding technology can reduce that to 1.8 Mbps. In general the technology can reduce the size of a stream by 50% without losing quality, or reduce it by 20% while actually delivering a better quality stream.
Netflix isn't saying where they're using EyeIO's technology but GigaOm speculates it will come in handy as the company expands into South America where network speeds aren't as fast as they are in the US. My immediate thought was for mobile devices where almost everyone is faced with a bandwidth cap these days.
I'd love to see more transparency from Netflix here. It'd be interesting to be able to compare a stream with and without EyeIO's encoding, just to see if the quality can really be improved while reducing the size 20%, because to me at least, that's an impressive feat.
Transparent or not, any tech that can reduce bandwidth consumption without adversely impacting the quality of the end product seems like a win for everyone involved.
Read more of Peter Smith's TechnoFile blog and follow the latest IT news at ITworld. Follow Peter on Twitter at @pasmith. For the latest IT news, analysis and how-tos, follow ITworld on Twitter and Facebook.