Published on November 10, 2017 (over 6 years ago)

Video is too hard.

Jon Dahl
By Jon Dahl2 min readVideo education

Online video is growing quickly, but it's still way too hard to stream video.

Video has actually gotten harder to work with, not easier, over the last seven years. It takes a video expert to publish video well, and you need a team of experts if you care about performance.

This is holding back the industry.

LinkWhy is video so hard?

Let's look at the way most video was published in 2010 vs. 2017.





Chrome, Firefox, Safari, iOS, Android, Roku, Apple TV, etc.


Desktop, Mobile Web, Mobile Native, TV platforms



270p, 360p, 480p, 540p, 720p, 1080p

MP4 (one file)

HLS and DASH (thousands of files)


H.264, VP9, HEVC


Single CDN

Multiple CDNs

Single bitrate

Adaptive bitrate


Rare (and difficult)

Ubiquitous (and difficult)


Client-side and server-side

Viewer expectations

Surprised video plays at all

Upset when video isn't perfect

Other problems include scale (much more video is watched today than seven years ago); cost (video streaming is really expensive); and differentiation (consumers have near-unlimited options for where to watch).

A few things have gotten easier - encoding software like ffmpeg is better now than it used to be; cloud computing platforms are more mature; there is a growing ecosystem around video tooling. But on balance, things are much more complicated in 2017 than they were in 2010.

LinkNow what?

So you want to stream video at scale. Given this complexity, what do you do?

You have a few options.

Option 1: Don't stream video. Rethink your life and do something else - build a finance app, or a chatbot, or go make WUPHF a thing.

Option 2: Hire video experts. If you just want to stay above water, hire one video expert to supplement your regular engineering team. If you really want to do things well, hire a team of video engineers and commit yourself to a significant investment in video. Just keep in mind that great video engineers are well-paid and hard-to-find. 💰💰

Option 3: Do the best you can without video expertise, knowing that whatever you build will be painful for you and your users. Or invest the time to become a video expert yourself and join the ranks of well-paid and hard-to-find. 💰💰

Option 4: Watch this space and see what Mux announces next week.

Written By

Jon Dahl

Co-founder of Zencoder, acquired by Brightcove, where Jon served as VP Technology. Makes better BBQ than code these days.

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