A small, frequently fuzzy image complete with sometimes stuttering sound -- that's the internet's streaming video today.
It sits atop a maze of industries and technologies, including semiconductors, IT, telecommunications, and others -- the infrastructure -- and offers a new distribution platform for business communications, entertainment, distance learning, home videos, medical diagnoses, pornography, on and on and on.
Alas! Insufficient bandwidth means this potentially very potent new medium lacks the image size and clarity of even 50's-style B&W television (at least for home consumers); further, the duration of a typical streaming "broadcast" is quite short, lasting only minutes. This will change, however; it's simply a matter of time.
A clear trend within the infrastructure is towards greater and greater bandwidth, even as hardware and software compression technologies continue to evolve; one need only "tune in" to the current state of internet audio transmission and note how rapidly it's improved to get a sense of where internet video is heading.
At some point, the small image of streaming video becomes sufficiently large and clear to rival present (non-HDTV) television, whether viewed directly on a computer monitor or a future version of the television set.
This will be the day of the Million-Channel World -- a wild situation of great promise to anyone interested in inexpensive global distribution of moving images, and a likely source of high anxiety to established MII companies and the advertising industry.
In our Introduction to The Change, we said "external' or "objective" reality, perceived through the physical senses, begins to be perceived as a subjective projection. Applied to the Million-Channel World, this means the proliferation of channels (call them video websites if you wish) symbolizes the consciousness expansion of The Change, the internet itself representing an exteriorization of formerly inner, subjective connections.
Just as our dreams aren't limited to commercial "dreamcasts," this future higher bandwidth situation, in which almost anyone can create their own virtual television station, will include innumerable private and non-commercial video websites focused on as many subjects their creators can think of.
The cost of doing this, compared to gaining access to present-day television or movie distribution channels, will be minimal. Some will put video on the internet just for the fun of it; others will struggle to find ways to generate revenue for their low-budget sites. Even if only 1% of all of this is worth finding and watching, that's still 10,000 -- and who's to say what percentage of the remaining 99% some will find interesting, in a world in which the present trends of increasing computer ownership and internet access continue?
In any case, present trends in television viewership (increased fragmentation) will be exaggerated to surreal levels as audiences face a staggering array of choices, including vast numbers of amateur video sites competing with a much smaller number of MII presentations (and those sites created by professional developers for businesses and institutions).
Needless to say, this will be an advertiser's nightmare, and call into question the economic structures of both commercial television and the movie industry. Internet access fees will supplant a portion of lost advertising revenue as entirely new ways to target, reach, and develop advertising "subject communities" inevitably arise; still -- industry turmoil is ahead.
Although high-quality (and very expensive) movies will still be shown in theaters, previously unknown John Hustons and Alfred Hitchcocks will no longer be prevented from distributing their creations alongside those of the established movie industry, which will face unprecedented competition -- competition guaranteed by continued advances in digital projection and related home theater equipment.
To some extent, studios and distributors will gain from new pay-for-view and downloading possibilities, but the entire movie business, from Hollywood to home video, will be quite changed in the Million-Channel World.
Aside from the low entry costs of internet video, technology acceleration is rampant, too, on the production side -- today, a professional videographer can use a $3,000 digital video camera and a computer to accomplish results only recently requiring a $25,000 video-pack camera and time consuming tape-to-digital conversion.
Surfing on a million-channel internet video ocean will not be quite the same experience as today's channel surfing, of course. And, how will anyone even know of the arrival of these new Hustons, Welleses, and Hitchcocks, their works of genius ready and waiting for viewing at any hour of the day or night on obscure video websites?
The above was put on-line in 1999; in July, 2006, RealityTest began to
actively explore on-line video again.
See its first and
second test clips, with more to follow as it joins
the Million-Channel World.