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Vimeo boss: 4K to browsers sooner than you think

Thursday, October 23rd 2014 by Phil Wilkinson-Jones

Internet users watching videos online in HD understand they are “trading quality for some speed”, according to Vimeo's chief technical officer Andrew Pile.

The video sharing website is working on streaming videos in 4K but Mr Pile said doing so in a browser window was still a work in progress.

He told Cable.co.uk: “We’ve been experimenting with playing 4K back in the browser for a while, and we’re getting very close to it in terms of something we think could work.

“We are constantly refining video quality and analysing what is coming into the site and what consumers are capable of bearing, so to speak.

“4K is the next logical step in quality. People are definitely shooting in it, there is the demand out there to put the content up on the site in 4K and the people who have the ability to play it back can do so.”

Vimeo made its first steps into the world of 4K content earlier this month with an episode of the US comedy web series Video Game High School.

“For this we just did a 4K download, which people were super happy about,” said Mr Pile.

“We didn’t get any feedback from people saying ‘well why can’t I watch this straight from my browser?’.

“People really did understand that 4K is kind of a monster and needs to be handled a little differently.”

Mr Pile, who started his career at comedy site College Humour before it was bought by Vimeo’s parent company IAC, said the expectations of users changed a lot depending on the device they were using.

“If you’re on a mobile device, people are somewhat expecting of a lower quality and slightly slower experience, but if you’re on a TV people are also willing to tolerate more buffering for a higher quality experience.

“On a desktop people really want both – no buffering and a high quality experience.

“We’re going to continue down the route we’ve been going down for a while, which is building a player delivery experience that we can moderate and adjust easily, but moreover putting tools in the hands of viewers to moderate some of this stuff themselves.

“For example, on every Vimeo player that’s been around since 2007 there is an HD on and off button. I think putting something like that in the users’ hands, they understand that when they turn on HD they are trading quality for some speed, so when you get to 4k which is another multiple, I think people will hopefully understand that as well.

“Just because something is being delivered in higher quality doesn’t mean the user necessarily expects the exact same experience.

“People do think that bandwidths should be ever-increasing, that video quality should be ever-increasing, but in our experience people actually do understand that there are physical and imposed limits on that.

“For us it’s really about putting the control in the users’ hands and trying to inform them about what quality they are experiencing."

You can read the full transcript of our interview with Andrew Pile here.

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