I’ve always wondered why Amazon has not jumped into the user-generated content game, especially when it comes to video, in an attempt to wrestle the crown from YouTube.

They have the audience base, brand recognition, and certainly the infrastructure to roll out such a platform. They are already in millions of homes natively with apps on platforms ranging from their own FireTV line of products, connected players like Roku, smart TVs, tablets, gaming machines like the PlayStation4, and more. Amazon also owns live-streaming giant, Twitch.

Recently, Amazon announced they will in fact start accepting and featuring user-generated videos on its platforms. More content, especially content it doesn’t need to produce or acquire, means more viewers, more hours watched, and, yes, more revenue for Amazon.

To its credit, Amazon is saying the program is for “professional video producers.” It’s not clear what that means and what the threshold is to be considered a professional producer, but for Amazon, it probably means having to not police user content uploads as much as YouTube does with programs like automatic content matching (which fails, a lot.)

youtubefaceJust last week, YouTube made headlines when its systems let the Fox television network use a clip a user created and uploaded in 2009 of the old Nintendo game Double Dribble. Fox used that clip in an episode of Family Guy, and then had the original clip taken down claiming copyright. Read more at TorrentFreak.

It’s not clear if this was malicious, or it’s another example of YouTube’s Content ID matching system run amok, but the message is clear: there has to be a good way to monitor and handle legitimate copyright claims without letting the big guys beat up on the little content producers. Are some claims legitimate? Yes, of course, but more and more, based on YouTubers posting updates, the system is busted and people can easily take advantage of it for monetary gain.

These are the types of challenges Amazon is going to have to figure out if it wants to win at this game.

The other trick is how are they going to monetize users and encourage them to upload content to this new service? YouTube, owned by Google, makes it easy to integrate Google’s AdSense platform right into the showing of videos1.

According to Bloomberg:

The new Amazon service gives video producers many ways to get paid. They can sell or rent their programs on Amazon, or make videos available to all Amazon customers (not just Prime subscribers) in an advertising-supported format. Another option: Provide videos to Amazon Prime members and get royalty payments based on how many times the content is streamed, or as part of an add-on subscription.

Will Amazon force producers to sign exclusive publishing agreements, or can producers continue to post their content on multiple sites? That remains to be seen – and if that revenue sharing will be enough to lure producers from other platforms and move to Amazon.

According to 3playmedia.com, Amazon is putting some big time money in front of producers:

The most striking incentive is Amazon’s offer to pay $1 million a month to the makers of the top 100 AVD programs viewed by Prime members.

What interests me are the requirements for publishing on Amazon’s platform: the videos must be in high definition, which makes sense with so many TV-based players, and second, all videos must be closed captioned. That’s a great move for accessibility, and I bet many producers are going to have to scramble to find a way to easily caption their videos.

1 – I use an ad blocker 99% of the time, so I rarely see how they are integrated ads into the viewing experience.

ET_HigherEd-GraphicAssets01-03Thank you to the folks at EdTech Magazine for including me once again in their list of 50 must-read higher ed IT bloggers. And thanks, also, for placing me in the “tech guru” category with very smart folks like Bryan Alexander, who speaks much more eloquently on the future of IT and higher ed than I do.

It’s hard to believe I’ve been doing this for eight years. I’ve learned so much, and it’s fun to share that knowledge with all of you.

I can’t promise I’ll get better at posting on a more regular schedule, but I will try. 😬

HTTPS Green-padlock-in-circleThere’s no arguing that WordPress has grown to wield much influence on the web, but one area they’ve lacked compared to services and platforms like Facebook, Reddit, and Twitter was their lack of offering HTTPS to sites hosted at WordPress.com that use a custom domain name.

Those days are now over.

They’ve partnered with Let’s Encrypt, a new service offering free SSL certificates, to offer SSL to sites without the site owner having to know how to install SSL.

That’s huge because creating, generating, and installing SSL certificates can be a difficult task, even for those of us with a strong technical background. Thanks to the API nature of Let’s Encrypt, the entire SSL generation and renewal process can be automated, reducing the technical hurdles to implementation and improving adoption.

Why is this important? A few reasons.

First, there’s never been more attention put on security, encryption, and the safety of information. By making it brain-dead simple for their users, WordPress is helping to improve the security of the web.

Second Google loves themselves HTTPS and SSL. Not just in general, as we’ve seen lately in their Gmail messages, but they are starting to rank sites that use HTTPS higher. Still think that HTTPS and TLS is too taxing on your servers? Not so.

Third, by having their sites being sent over HTTPS, WordPress.com can serve those sites using HTTP/2, which means faster, more efficient content delivery.  This is important as our sites get larger and larger, with more CSS, javascripts, responsive high-DPI images, and more. The HTTP/2 repo at Github says:

At a high level, HTTP/2:

  • is binary, instead of textual
  • is fully multiplexed, instead of ordered and blocking
  • can therefore use one connection for parallelism
  • uses header compression to reduce overhead
  • allows servers to “push” responses proactively into client caches

Kudos to WordPress.com and Automattic for this move. A safer, more secure web is a better web.