Archive for the ‘Multimedia’ Category

File Under: Multimedia, Web Services

Instagram Finally Embraces the Web

Instagram on the web. Image: Instagram.

Instagram is leaving the confines of the smartphone that birthed the wildly popular photo-sharing service to stake a spot on the web. Instagram began life as an iPhone-only photo-sharing app and eventually expanded to Android, but, until today, Instagram lacked a web presence.

The new Instagram web profiles are not the full Instagram experience on the web — there’s still no way to actually upload photos — but they do at least give you a URL to share with curious friends and family.

Your new Instagram URL gives your recently shared photographs a home on the web, along with your profile photo and any bio info you’ve added through the Instagram app. The web interface also handles most of Instagram’s basic social features, like following users, leaving comments and liking photos.

Instagram’s new web-based profiles are rolling out slowly over the next week. To see your profile, provided it’s available, just head to instagram.com/[username]. Assuming your photos are set to public, anyone will be able to see your profile by visiting that address; you do not need to be an Instagram user to view a public user’s profile on the web. If your photos are set to private they’ll only be visible to people that already follow you and are logged in to the site.

While the new profile pages mark Instagram’s first foray onto the web, the company has long offered an API and there are already numerous third-party websites that offer web-based access to Instagram profiles. Sites like web.stagram.com or statigr.am offer not only access to your photostream and comments, but additional features not found in the current incarnation of the “official” site — like embeddable gallery widgets and a variety of ways to view images.

File Under: Browsers, HTML5, Multimedia

Mozilla Plans H.264 Video for Desktop Firefox

Mozilla is getting closer to making H.264 video work in Firefox.

The company’s recently released Firefox for Android already bakes in OS-level support for the H.264 video codec and now Mozilla is adding support to desktop Firefox as well.

Mozilla long opposed supporting the H.264 codec because it’s patent-encumbered and requires licensing fees. It’s also the most popular codec for HTML5 video on the web, which drove Mozilla to swallow its ideals and get practical about adding support to Firefox. Instead of including the codec directly in Firefox, the browser will rely on OS-level tools to play H.264 video.

There’s still no support for H.264 in the current desktop version of Firefox, but as Mozilla CTO, Brendan Eich recently noted on his blog, work is under way and, with the exception of Windows XP, all platforms will get OS-native codec support for H.264 video. Windows XP, which lacks OS-level tools for H.264, will continue to use the Flash plugin to play H.264 movies.

If you’d like to keep track of Mozilla’s progress adding H.264 to the desktop there’s a tracking bug that follows solutions for all the major desktop platforms. Eich does not give an explicit timeline or any hint of when H.264 support might ship with Firefox on the desktop.

The HTML5 video element was supposed to offer a standards-based way to play movies on the web without proprietary plugins like Flash or Silverlight. Unfortunately that dream has failed to pan out. Instead of proprietary plugins, the web ended up with proprietary video codecs, which has created a split in browser support for HTML5 video. Firefox and Opera support the open Ogg and WebM codecs, while Safari and Internet Explorer supported H.264.

Mozilla (and Opera) were against the adoption of H.264 on ideological grounds — H.264 is not an open codec and requires that companies using it pay royalties. But earlier this year the company partially reversed course and said it would support H.264 on devices where the codec is supplied by the platform or implemented in hardware.

In announcing its change of heart with regard to H.264, Eich wrote, “H.264 is absolutely required right now to compete on mobile. I do not believe that we can reject H.264 content in Firefox on Android or in B2G and survive the shift to mobile…. Failure on mobile is too likely to consign Mozilla to decline and irrelevance.”

However, while Mozilla may have abandoned the fight against H.264 in HTML5 video, it has taken up the same banner when it comes to WebRTC. WebRTC is a group of proposed standards that will eventually make web apps capable of many of the same feats that currently require platform-native APIs. In his recent post detailing the progress of H.264 support, Eich says that Mozilla is still focused on “the fight for unencumbered formats” for WebRTC, and promises “more on that front later”.

File Under: Multimedia

Timeline Traces How the Web Became the Web

Everything begins in The Garden of Forking Paths. Image: Screenshot/Webmonkey.

The history of the web is long and convoluted; so long and convoluted, in fact, that putting together a complete picture can be overwhelming.

John Allsopp, who has logged quite a few years helping shape web history, was undaunted by the winding story of the web and recently launched The Web History Timeline Project to help map it out.

The goal isn’t to cover the entire history of the web; rather, Allsopp is interested in “the most important milestones in the history of ideas, whether they’re the publication of seminal articles and books, the publication of important standards and RFCs, the release of important software (browsers, servers, tools, libraries) or significant events, such as the founding of the W3C.” And The Web History Timeline isn’t just a static document; you can suggest “significant milestones in the history of web design and development” yourself using the Google Docs form over on Allsopp’s site.

The big question with the history of the web is always, Where do you start? How far back does the idea behind the web actually go? Vannevar Bush’s famous essay, As We May Think, in which he describes the Memex, “a sort of mechanized private file and library,” is a popular jumping-off point, but Allsopp opts to go even further back in the stack to Jorge Luis Borges’ 1941 short story The Garden of Forking Paths. Starting with Borges helps make our liberal arts degrees feel a little bit less useless, so we’re all for that starting point.

The Web History Timeline isn’t just informative; it looks great too. The project was built with Verite’s Timeline.js library, which handles most of the design heavy lifting. For more info on Timeline.js, check out the project page or grab the code from GitHub.

It’s also worth noting that we first heard about The Web History Timeline project on Eric Meyer and Jen Simmon’s new podcast The Web Behind, on which Allsopp was the inaugural guest. That episode is well worth a listen, and be sure to add the feed to your favorite podcast app for more on the early days of the web.

File Under: Multimedia

Google Street View Dives Into the Great Barrier Reef

Google Street View: Sunset over the Great Barrier Reef. Image: Screenshot/Webmonkey

Google Maps’ Street View feature long ago left the street, with “street views” of hiking trails, tours through famous museums and panoramas of the Amazon Basin. Now Google is going even further, diving into the world’s coral reefs to add underwater panoramic images to Google Maps.

To see the new underwater imagery head over to Google Maps and check out a sea turtle swimming among a school of fish or the Great Barrier Reef at sunset. There’s also a new Barrier Reef page on Google’s World Wonders Project which has some more interactive panoramas.

The reef imagery isn’t limited to just the Great Barrier Reef; you can also explore the Apo Island marine reserve in the Philippines or explore Oahu’s Hanauma Bay and Maui’s Molokini crater in Hawaii.

For the curious, no, Google didn’t actually drive its Street View cars and trikes onto fragile reefs around the world; the company is getting the new underwater images from the Catlin Seaview Survey, an ongoing scientific study of the world’s reefs.

File Under: Multimedia, Web Services

Make Your Movies Pay With Vimeo’s New ‘Tip Jar’

Image: H.L.I.T./Flickr.

Popular video-sharing site Vimeo has added a tip jar, which allows Vimeo users to accept payments from anyone who enjoys their movies.

To use the new Tip Jar you’ll need to be a Vimeo Plus or Vimeo Pro member, but provided you’re already set up with a paid account, enabling it is as simple as adding a PayPal account and checking a box on the video’s advanced settings page. Once that’s done a “Tip This Video” button will appear underneath the video player on Vimeo.com, allowing viewers to leave tips in appreciation for your cinéma vérité efforts.

The fine print taketh away a 15 percent service fee and you’ll need to have a verified PayPal account in order to claim your money. Also note that you cannot accept tips on commercial or political videos, nor can you use Tip Jar as a way to raise money for a political cause.

Obviously Tip Jar probably isn’t going to make you a millionaire in most cases, but if your video goes viral to a particularly generous audience — who knows?

For a more reliable way of making money on Vimeo, the company also plans to roll out a pay-per-view service later this year. The pay-per-view offering appears to be limited to Vimeo Pro members. The Vimeo blog offers little in the way of details, saying only that pay-per-view will add “tools to charge for access to your videos, with no coding required.”