The Difference Between The ‘Internet’ and the ‘Web’

“I invented the Web not the Internet!” Tim Berners-Lee

Many people in our industry still confuse the ‘internet’ with the ‘web’.   This distinction doesn’t matter to the ordinary user, but it is hugely significant in the world of media, particularly advertising, so its worth picking apart the difference.

Tim Berners-Lee in the 1980s

Firstly, its important to recognise the hierarchy between the two terms, as they are not equivalent. The ‘web’ is very much a sub-set of the activity that happens on the ‘internet’. So we will explain ‘internet’ first.

The Internet, short for ‘inter-connected networks’, refers to physical infrastructure – cables, servers, routers, switches etc.  Created via hundreds of separate inventions and innovations that started in the late 60s, the ‘Internet’ is now a collective term for a huge number of separately owned and managed systems, that all work to the same, agreed set of rules and tech standards – what are known as ‘protocols’ (hence Internet Protocol, or ‘IP’).  

It is loosely managed and, if you follow the rules and tech standards, you can connect your infrastructure to the internet without having to get permission from any organisation.  However, on its own, the Internet doesn’t do anything or contain anything interesting.  Its only when you put content onto your servers, and exchange it across the network that it gets interesting.

To do this, you have to follow more rules about how content is created and stored, and how services are organised.  This is where confusion sometimes starts as each type of content or service has to follow its own rules and protocols.  Also, the content needs dedicated servers and the user needs a bit of specific software to run it:

The Early Stuff

File Transfer – One of the earliest things the boffins did was work out an agreed set of rules (a protocol) to manage transfering a block of data, or a ‘file’, from one computer to another. They invented the ‘file transfer protocol’ or ‘FTP’. If you have used WeTransfer or similar FTP services then you will have used this (we’ll explain why you went to a website to do it in a minute).  

Email – transferring simple messages between computers was solved by creating a ‘simple message transfer protocol’ or SMTP . This is the main protocol that runs behind all email systems like iMail and Outlook. (Again, we’ll explain why you can do email through a web page like Hotmail in a minute).

The Web, –  also referred formally as World Wide Web (www) – this was invented by Tim Berners-Lee as a way to make interactive links between content on different servers. It was meant to help researchers make connections between research content in different places. So some content about ‘France’ could link automatically to content about ‘Paris’ on a different server, by clicking on a link.  He called content containing these links ‘hypertext’ and wrote a ‘Hypertext Transfer Protocol’ – what is now referred to as HTTP. (If you can see a web address with http, you know you are on Tim Berners-Lee’s great invention).

How Did Hotmail Fit Into This Again?

The web has become the most popular of all the content types and often a web page is used instead of software to deliver the other internet services. So if you want to use email without messy software like iMail or Outlook, you can use a web page (like Hotmail) to access some mail software sitting on a service providers computer instead of yours. (Tech summary – you are using HTTP to access an SMTP service on a mail server somewhere).

But What About Telly??

Video – when Tim Berners-Lee first invented Hypertext, he wasn’t thinking about people watching telly over the web.  It was a protocol designed for text. So the early video pioneers avoided the web altogether and created Internet protocols specifically for video.  There were various versions of these protocols, but they tend to get lumped together under the phrase ‘Internet Protocol Television’ – IPTV.

Most TV platforms that wanted to use the Internet to deliver TV or video wrote their own, proprietary Internet TV protocols.  Some of these (like the one used for Sky+HD’s on-demand service) are still in use today.  For a long time, using the web to run video was painful (and needed plug-ins like Flash and Silverlight in your browser). However, in recent years there have been significant software breakthroughs that have allowed companies to use web code, web servers and web browsers, to distribute video painlessly. Some TV platforms (like BT Television) have changed from a private IPTV system to using a more open web-based platform (in BT’s case, Youview).

This means that in the UK we have TV platforms that use IPTV (like Sky+HD), some which use web content and protocols (like Youview) and some which use a combination (like SkyQ)

Why Does This Matter?

This distinction doesn’t necessarily matter to the end viewer – although the IPTV based players make a case that their systems perform better and offer a more consistent interface compared to Web systems). For the advertising industry, this distinction is crucial. It is somewhere between ‘very hard’ and ‘downright impossible’ to integrate most of the current generation of open market advertising technology (ad-tech) into proprietary IPTV television systems.

This explains why there is very limited advertising in on-demand TV on Sky and Virgin. Any advertising innovation on those platforms (like SkyAdSmart) is built on proprietary ad technology. Unfortunately, Sky and Virgin account for over half the homes in the UK and about 65% of the TV content viewing (by hours). If you buy an ad campaign on a broadcaster’s web player (eg ITV Hub), the ad campaign won’t run on Sky or Virgin unless you do a seperate deal with them, and build a seperate campaign (content and data) to support this.

Therefore, if we want significant innovation around TV advertising on any of the platforms still running IPTV systems, they are going to have to solve how to integrate web technology, or change their content systems to more web friendly protocols. This is significant and the agency/client world needs to be putting pressure on the TV platforms to do this.

Codicil About Blockchain

If you were wondering what the hell ‘blockchain’ or ‘bitcoin’ is, then the above explanation about internet protocols should help. Blockchain is just the newest of the Internet Protocols. It runs over the internet but, as with every other content type described above, requires a very specific type of server, and very specific types of software to access it. It shares some characteristics with the web (every server gets a copy of every ID), but has some significant differences (you can’t copy or delete anything, and every record you add is connected to the previous one – hence block ‘chain’).

Bitcoin is a consumer service that has been built to exploit the unique characteristics of blockchain – particularly the fact you can’t copy or delete records – allowing the system to behave like a currency.

CES 2020 For the TV Industry

Sept 2011 - New NW BW Head & Shoulders (thumbnail)

Nigel Walley

Its that time of year again – CES. A hundred thousand people descend on Las Vegas to revel in new consumer technology, try and make sense of hundreds of corporate announcements and rack up our first expenses for the year. For the TV industry a show like CES is a mixed bag. Large parts of the show are irrelevant to our day to day. As well as TV, it covers health tech, car tech, drone tech, ed tech, sex tech and various other ‘tech’ areas where you might not have anticipated a tech intervention.

For the TV industry the show splits between device innovation and commercial announcements. Some companies even manage both. But before experiencing a single piece of tech you become aware of the politics of this kind of show just walking around Las Vegas looking at the billboards and the sponsorships. Apple never turn up, preferring to do their own announcements in their own venue. Even so, this year they managed to be present on various stands and even took a poster site outside the main venue with a sarcastic message targeted at other phone users. In the sections of the show dedicated to Smart Home tech, there were also multiple ‘works with Apple HomeKit’ labels attached to stands. They were on the TVs as well, in a more limited way as they announced partnerships and distribution deals with TV manufacturers.

Two years ago, with the launch of the Alexa, Amazon managed to pull the same trick – putting their devices and logos onto 500 stands without actually having their own presence. This year, Amazon took a small exhibition hall in the Venetian to explain the breadth of their tech and services offering. In response Google took over the whole town.

As with last year, 2020 felt like every major digital poster and sponsorship opportunity in Las Vegas had been taken over by Google, including the inside and outside of the monorail – even the recorded announcements on the monorail started with a ‘hey Google’ message. Outside the convention centre Google built their own pavilion with demonstration kitchens, theatres, car ports and a ‘Google Experience’ ride. Inside the convention centre they flooded the floor with Google clones dressed in Google boiler suits and woolly hats. 1800 stands had some form of Google presence on them, with 200 of them having Google manned demo rooms bolted onto the main stands. The message was that Google are coming for every part of your home.

What is clear is that the tech industry is trying to make sure our homes are ready to accept them. A consistent theme around the show this year was screens built into the most unlikely places. Before PCs and smart phones, TVs were our only screen. Now they are ubiquitous. CES showed us that any flat surface – fridges, cooker hoods, mirrors etc can be made into a screen that can run telly. Netflix on a mirror next to your bath? Amazon Prime on your shower screen? Clearly TV has a role in the smart home of the future but there isn’t much we need to do to play in this world. In Smart Homes it feels TV is a passenger on someone else’s journey.

Where we are on more familiar ground is on the TVs themselves. The mantra this year from the TV manufacturers was the same as it is every year – bigger, thinner, smarter, sharper. The signature gateway into the show is always the LG TV wall – 200 flat screen TVs linked together into an overwhelming waterfall of 8K content that you have to walk through and under to enter the show. It is a perennial demonstration of why TV always provides the figurative ‘sex’ at CES and why so many devices and innovations want our content on them.

Beyond the LG stand, most manufacturers demonstrated gorgeous 4K and 8K screens of increasing size and refinement. However, these were often coupled with utterly pointless ‘features’ to try and stand out from the crowd. We saw bendable, foldable and rollable TVs – all promoted as ‘benefits’ but really just attempts to mitigate the awkward fact that TVs are getting too big to fit into an average home. They also haven’t shed the nasty habit of including Netflix, and now Amazon Prime, buttons on their remote controls, demonstrating how the tech giants are trying to buy their way to dominance through tech deals.

A second major theme was TV software integration with the virtual assistants. Last year we were told that TVs could ‘talk to Alexa’ with a software patch. This year we were told that Alexa had been built-in to their core software. Most TVs now include a microphone and have software from Amazon, Google and in a few cases Apple, to ensure integration with the emerging voice landscape.

Clearly these deals include the requirement to have their logos on exhibition stands, not just remote controls, and many TV stands trumpeted their tech partners with stickers from each of the major ones. Samsung TVs went further than just assistant integration and included Apple AirPlay software, alongside its native casting software. As a result, Samsung were the furthest down the road to the ‘any content on any device’ vision.

A consistent theme throughout the show was the increased co-operation between the major players. Samsung demonstrated this by showing an iTunes app integration on their Smart TVs. This sat alongside the existing apps from Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hulu etc and showed that we are all on a journey towards every app on every device. The fact that Apple have felt the need to join in highlights the weakness in their TV device and service strategy to date. We were teased with an impending Apple SVOD service announcement, but the app didn’t appear at the show. We can only assume it will follow iTunes onto Samsung TVs before spreading out onto every other major brand. This will be as meaningful as Netflix arriving on Sky, but with global importance.

The TVs were interesting from a content presentation point of view. Samsung and LG are still pursuing their own operating systems and so were showing off menu designs that have borrowed heavily from the graphically rich Netflix approach. Some of the many Chinese manufacturers had bought their way into the market by adopting other software. TCS were showing their Roku TVs. However, the dominant software in TVs was Google’s android TV. This has become the default TV software for any company without its own software strategy, and gives Google an increasingly powerful gateway role for TV. Your app and content now need to be Android compatible or you aren’t in the game. It also puts TV at the heart of Google’s wider smart home strategy as all these TVs come ready to talk to Google Home and Nest.

One of those companies pursuing its own TV strategy was Amazon. With Prime now ubuiquitous on other devices, Amazon were showing off their own TV kit. Having shown they can build screen devices with their Kindle strategy they now targeting the big screen. In the US they have been trialling their own TV’s, made by companies like Toshiba, and running the FireTV software that runs in their sticks and mini-boxes. Their vision is an Amazon TV in the main room of your house and a stick plugged into every old TV in the other rooms. All plugged into Alexa and your ecommerce account.

They also demonstrated their new FireTV PVR. This is quite a shocking departure for a company that is so integral to the rise of on-demand TV. It has pioneered VOD through its own Prime service, and by hosting so many other VOD services on its own AWS platform. So to launch a broadcast recorder is really interesting statement about the TV market. It shows a pragmatic understanding that over-the-air broadcast is not going away anytime soon. It also shows an understanding of the power of local storage of recordings – particularly given the patchy quality of broadband in key markets like the US and the UK. Expect an Amazon Home Media server with integral PVR capability this year.

Stepping back from the details of the devices and the deals, the message CES gave the world is that TV is still at the heart of the tech revolution but new players are beginning to drive it. Pragmatism is breaking out between these tech players meaning content, apps and tech is increasingly shared and interoperable. The TVs that a consumer will buy in the shops will be increasingly competitive with the set top box based services from the pay platforms but are increasingly plugged into a global network of smart home, artificial intelligence and e-commerce software. For the consumer this is a fantastic outcome, but the global scale of these deals puts pressure on UK-only players.

Decipher MediaBug 2020

Decipher are very pleased to announce that 2020 will be the 10th consecutive year that we are running Mediabug.  Decipher’s  Media Bug has been our main online media research tool since 2015. It has been used by clients as varied as OFCOM, who include it in the annual MediaNations Report, and by a wide variety of media companies and agencies.

The key to the success of Media Bug has been Decipher’s understanding of devices and services which has let us structure our questionnaire to get under the skin of service and device adoption in the UK.  In particular, our ability to identify the correlation between platform use and device ownership.   In 2015 we were the first to identify that 65% of pay TV users were also using smart TV apps on the same screen – leading to many pay TV operators changing their approach to including apps on their platforms.

For 2020 new devices have been added including the ‘Nvidia Shield’ Android TV device as well as voice assistants like Amazon Echo and GoogleHome Assistant.

Television Research and the 12-18s: the FutureTV Viewers Speak

By Matt Walters – @matthew_walters –

Head and shouldersIt has become a recurring theme among observers of the TV industry that young people have rejected broadcast television and “don’t watch TV any more”.  The huge take up of alternative video formats and new devices is continually interpreted as evidence of this rejection. Recent analysis of viewing patterns and quantitative research from Ofcom and Thinkbox has shown that linear still plays a significant role in the viewing mix for young adults. These reports also show that over half of viewing amongst 12 – 18 year olds is now non-linear VoD and OTT.  While the new data has reset our understanding of “what” is happening, what we haven’t known until now is “why”; what is motivating this shift, and will it remain in the future? more “Television Research and the 12-18s: the FutureTV Viewers Speak”

Why Chimni?

You may have noticed Decipher people talking about our tech start up Chimni recently.  Launching a consumer facing platform business is a significant departure for Decipher but we have wanted to trial some ideas created in our ‘skunk works’ and this is the first new business to launch out of that process.

We plan for Chimni to grow into the next type of home ‘platform’ helping homeowners make sense of the increasing number of online accounts and digital service providers they encounter.

Chimni Blue Wall PictureUsing software and online services to run property is well established in the commercial world as modern office buildings have become ‘machine-like’ in their complexity.  Commercial Facilities Managers now expect to use software and data analysis as a natural part of running run buildings.  As our homes become more connected we can expect that behaviour to seep out of the commercial world and become normal in residential property.

This is not to say that we are not already using more and more apps at home.  To date, this has mainly been part of ‘Smart Home’ and ‘Internet of Things’ experimentation among early adopters.  However the potential for software and digital services to support our home life and management of our properties is much greater.   Around us, every organisation we encounter when running a home is going through its own digital revolution.  From estate agents and utilities, through to local authorities, they all want a digital relationship with us and for us to use their web sites and apps as primary customer interaction.

Recently, in a consumer research session for Chimni, we encountered a man with 17 apps on his phone that somehow related to his home. These included multiple utility apps, local authority services, his insurance and mortgage company apps and apps for a host of smart devices. Having recently bought his house he also had estate agent, conveyancer and house move apps.  He made the point in the research group that, as an early adopter of tech, he was willing to play around like this, but it wasn’t a long term solution to how he expected to manage his home.

We are in the early phases of these revolutions, so this kind of ‘app chaos’ is to be expected.  But this can’t be the long term solution.  After an initial explosion of apps and services, we can expect a period of rationalisation and tidy up. Chimni intend to part of this process and the Chimni team are already working with 500 trial users in West London and a group of local authorities to test integration.

EndPanelThere are still some difficult issues to resolve around who owns the data produced in the new digital services around our homes. There is still an assumption among many service providers that this is their data.  Services like Hive and Google Nest extract data from their connected devices and only make it available sparingly to householders.  Very slowly regulation and legislation is giving power to individuals to control their personal data, but we have yet to see equivalent regulatory focus on the data produced by assets like our homes. This will have to change to support homeowners.

The core idea behind Chimni is that any data produced about our homes, for our homes or by our homes (in the case of IoT services & devices) should be the property of the householder not the service provider.   Chimni is an attempt to give householders the tools to take control of that data and turn it into a valuable asset.  We envisage a time when a homeowner will handover data logs and passwords in the way that we currently handover physical keys and alarm codes.

The final challenge is to establish the role of the home in the emerging vision for Smart and Connected Cities. Chimni believe that the home is the basic building block of the smart city (or at least the smart suburb) and as homeowners we should look to contribute data and insight into the wider city intelligence being created.  So once we have established control of the data produced about, for and by our homes, we will be encouraged to share it, on our own terms, for mutual benefit. This will require our homes to connect intelligently to utilities and other networked services, and also to the systems that will need to be put in place by Local Authorities.  However, councils are currently struggling with legacy IT systems and budget constraints, so the private sector is going to have to step in and support them.

Chimni is intending to provide the bridge between the intelligent home and the Smart City.  Interaction between the home, local authorities and utilities will be a key element of the data services we are looking to provide.


Breaking Out of The Box

Sept 2011 - New NW BW Head & Shoulders (thumbnail)By Nigel Walley – @nwalley

The humble set top box – or STB – has come a long way since it was first introduced over 20 years ago.  Originally just a device intended to decode broadcast signals, many in our industry dismiss the discussion of the STB as a ‘tech’ issue.  However, the STB has emerged as one of the most important device classes in the consumer media landscape and once again is driving disruption and strategic change.

In the early years, viewers used content from pay boxes as a complement to their ‘normal’ TV viewing, just turning on the box when they wanted to access their pay channels. But over time set top boxes morphed a number of times into a new and much more influential driver of change in our industry.  more “Breaking Out of The Box”

New Mediabug report shows that SVOD is not cannibalising the UK Pay TV base

160504 hamishBy Hamish McPharlin

New research from Decipher has shown that Pay TV subscriptions have not only increased since 2012, but SVOD subscriptions are growing faster amongst Pay homes – and in particular those with Top Tier packages – than any other.


Decipher’s latest Mediabug report has thrown up the intriguing possibility that the arrival of SVOD services in the market may have actually helped, not hindered, the Pay TV market. The bi-annual analysis of 3,000 UK consumers tracks adoption and use of SVOD in both Pay TV and Free TV homes. This latest report shows that the total Pay TV base has continued to grow from 61% to 69% of the UK population over the last four years (FIGURE 1). During this time, SVOD usage in Pay TV homes has grown from 10% to 45%. This indicates than there is a growing cohort of UK consumers that are increasingly comfortable with both Pay TV and SVOD.

more “New Mediabug report shows that SVOD is not cannibalising the UK Pay TV base”

Streaming Devices Like Amazon Fire Are Now Driving OTT Use On The Big Screens In UK Television Homes

[Click Here To Download Free Summary Highlights]160504 hamish

Decipher have released the latest wave of their bi-annual Mediabug research into consumer media use. Now in its fifth year, the bi-annual report is based on an online consumer survey of 3000 UK consumers, and reports on how new technology is impacting media consumption.



For the first time, this Mediabug Wave has shown the impact of new low-cost streaming devices like Amazon Fire Stick, Roku and Google Chromecast in driving OTT VOD use onto the big screen in UK television homes.

more “Streaming Devices Like Amazon Fire Are Now Driving OTT Use On The Big Screens In UK Television Homes”

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