By Ian Moulster, Senior Product Manager, Microsoft Ltd.
One of the great things about the internet is how easy it is to share stuff these days: your photographs, your (hopefully legal) music, your videos, your thoughts and experiences. In fact, people are increasingly putting whole chunks of their lives up on the web for the world to see. And while it’s great fun to be able to share your content so easily there is a problem with some of the richer content: large file sizes. What this means is that if you want to put up a video (for example) that might be tens of megabytes in size, you have a few options:
1) You could host your video on a service like YouTube or MSN Soapbox or similar. The problem here is that you can’t control the video quality and your visitors will see someone else’s branding
2) You could host yourself but could face streaming data charges from your ISP if your video proves popular. And the streaming rate is likely to be pretty poor too, which means people may need to download the entire video rather than watch online
3) You could sign up to a specialist service, which tends to be really expensive and beyond the means of most of us
4) Or....you could use Silverlight Streaming.
So what is Silverlight Streaming? In a nutshell, it’s a free account linked to your Windows Live ID that gives you 4GB of server space, the ability to stream at a high bitrate anywhere in the world, and no branding.
How is this different to one of the existing video services like YouTube? There are a few significant differences:
• Silverlight Streaming actually hosts an entire application for you, including your rich media. This might be a video, but could also be music, graphics or other resources that your application needs
• You’re in complete control of how the content is delivered. Which means you need to build the code into your website to display your video for example, but the good news is that we have tools that can provide you with the code you need to get going quickly
• There’s no branding, and you decide on the quality and size you need from the playback within the limits of the service.
To get started, take a look at http://silverlight.live.com. If you want to give this a try right away, I’ve recorded a video walkthrough of how to get a wmv file hosted on your Silverlight streaming account – it’s a pretty quick process.
Bear in mind that the service is still in alpha but I’ve found it to be pretty stable and consistent to use, even at this early stage. Also, expect to see increasing support from our toolset for the service. Definitely one to watch.