By Nigel Walley
Ok, a strangely detailed and techie post, from us (who always claim to be marketers and not techies). There seems to be a wave of confusion over the difference between the ‘Internet’ and the ‘Web’ (No they are not the same thing! An Englishman – Sir Tim Berners Lee – invented the web, but he most certainly did not invent the Internet, which had been around for years before Sir Tim started fiddling with it.)
This distinction doesn’t really matter until we start thinking about how this impacts the TV area. There are actually three levels of internet connectivity that you can get into a TV set and the article needs to be clear about the distinction:
·The Virgin cable infrastructure uses internet protocol (IP) standards, but runs it over its own cable ( so it is ‘internet like’ but not the true internet). And however, much the BBC try and tell you that there is iPlayer on Virgin, it is a lie (see: http://decipherconsultancy.wordpress.com/2009/03/03/tv-iplayer-looks-like-a-duck-but-quacks-like-a-cuckoo/)
·BT Vision, Tiscali, and Sky’s future on-demand service, run over the open internet, but do not use web standards. They each use a propriety IP coding system – creating an IPTV walled garden whose software standards they individually control. This most definitely IS the internet, but is not the web. (When you see content from Channel 4 on these services it is NOT the Channel 4 web site, but a page in the EPG written in the BT Vision, or Tiscali, software). There is no current link through these internet delivered, walled garden systems onto the ‘web’ proper, but they use consumer broadband internet connections to deliver it all. This means that if you are sitting in a BT Vision home, watching on-demand content through your BT Vision box, while watching iPlayer on the web on your lap top via your BT Home Hub, then there are two different forms of internet protocol TV content being piped into your home, at the same time, up those little copper wires that they have nailed to your skirting boards.
·Canvas, Fetch, PS3 TV, AppleTV, Xbox Live, and Yahoo WidgetsTV, all use the internet (like the ones above), but go one step further and effectively use the open ‘web’ (and web protocols like HTTP) to deliver TV content to the boxes. So what you will see will be versions of actual web sites, repurposed for the TV screen. For instance, there is a version of both YouTube and iPlayer written for big TV screens. (The web sites are clever enough to recognize that a STB is asking to see them, and sends a version repurposed for a big TV screen. It is likely that the Freeview and Freesat world will move towards this spec and create free-to-air boxes with web TV in the back. Also lots of TV set manufacturers will try and include this in their screen specs.
The reason that these distinctions are important is all about access. Companies like MTV (who currently have to work through platforms like Sky and Virgin) could use the web to get direct access to customers through TV versions of their own web sites, even though they only have limited Freeview coverage.
Open web access to the TV also brings Web2.0 functionality to the TV (YouTube, Flickr etc. are all on AppleITV). You may wonder if this is a good thing, but the people we have spoken to who have it seem to like using it.