[whatwg] A standard for adaptive HTTP streaming for media resources

Chris Holland frenchy at gmail.com
Mon May 24 20:40:57 PDT 2010

> * authoring of content in a specific way
> * description of the alternative files on the server and their
> features for the UA to download and use for switching
> * a means to easily switch mid-way between these alternative files

I don't have something decent to offer for the first and last bullets  
but I'd like to throw-in something for the middle bullet:

The http protocol is vastly under utilized today when it comes to URIs  
and the various Accept* headers.

Today developers might embed an image in a document as chris.png. Web  
daemons know to find that resource and serve it, in this sense,  
chris.png is a resource locator.

Technically one might reference the image as a resource identifier  
named "chris". The user's browser may send  "image/gif" as the only  
value of an accept header, signaling the following to the server: "I'm  
supposed to download an image of chris here, but I only support gif,  
so don't bother sending me a .png". In a perhaps more useful scenario  
the user agent may tell the server "don't bother sending me an image,  
I'm a screen reader, do you have anything my user could listen to?".  
In this sense, the document's author didn't have to code against or  
account for every possible "context" out there, the author merely puts  
a reference to a higher-level representation that should remain  
forward-compatible with evolving servers and user-agents.

By passing a list of accepted mimetypes, the accept http header  
provides this ability to serve context-aware resources, which starts  
to feel like a contender for catering to your middle bullet.

To that end, new mime-types could be defined to encapsulate media type/ 
bit rate combinations.

Or the accept header might remain confined to media types and  
acceptable bit rate information might get encapsulated into a new  
header, such as: X-Accept-Bitrate .

If you combined the above approach with existing standards for http  
byte range requests, there may be a mechanism there to cater to your  
3rd bullet as well: when network conditions deteriorate, the client  
could interrupt the current stream and issue a new request "where it  
left off" to the server. Although this likel wouldn't work because a  
byte range request would mean nothing on files of two different sizes.  
For playbacked media, time codes would be needed to define range.


On May 24, 2010, at 19:33, Silvia Pfeiffer <silviapfeiffer1 at gmail.com>  

> Hi all,
> I would like to raise an issue that has come up multiple times before,
> but hasn't ever really been addressed properly.
> We've in the past talked about how there is a need to adapt the
> bitrate version of a audio or video resource that is being delivered
> to a user agent based on the available bandwidth on the network, the
> available CPU cycles, and possibly other conditions.
> It has been discussed to do this using @media queries and providing
> links to alternative versions of a media resources through the
> <source> element inside it. But this is a very inflexible solution,
> since the side conditions for choosing a bitrate version may change
> over time and what is good at the beginning of video playback may not
> be good 2 minutes later (in particular if you're on a mobile device
> driving through town).
> Further, we have discussed the need for supporting a live streaming
> approach such as RTP/RTSP - but RTP/RTSP has its own "non-Web" issues
> that will make it difficult to make it part of a Web application
> framework - in particular it request a custom server and won't just
> work with a HTTP server.
> In recent times, vendors have indeed started moving away from custom
> protocols and custom servers and have moved towards more intelligence
> in the UA and special approaches to streaming over HTTP.
> Microsoft developed "Smooth Streaming" [1], Apple developed "HTTP Live
> Streaming" [2] and Adobe recently launched "HTTP Dynamic Streaming"
> [3]. (Also see a comparison at [4]). As these vendors are working on
> it for MPEG files, so are some people for Ogg. I'm not aware anyone is
> looking at it for WebM yet.
> Standards bodies haven't held back either. The 3GPP organisation have
> defined 3GPP adaptive HTTP Streaming (AHS) in their March 2010 release
> 9 of  3GPP [5]. Now, MPEG has started consolidating approaches for
> adaptive bitrate streaming over HTTP for MPEG file formats [6].
> Adaptive bitrate streaming over HTTP is the correct approach towards
> solving the double issues of adapting to dynamic bandwidth
> availability, and of providing a live streaming approach that is
> reliable.
> Right now, no standard exists that has been proven to work in a
> format-independent way. This is particularly an issue for HTML5, where
> we want at least support for MPEG4, Ogg Theora/Vorbis, and WebM.
> I know that it is not difficult to solve this issue in a
> format-independent way, which is why solutions are jumping up
> everywhere. They are, however, not compatible and create a messy
> environment where people have to install solutions for multiple
> different approaches to make sure they are covered for different
> platforms, different devices, and different formats. It's a clear
> situation where a new standard is necessary.
> The standard basically needs to provide three different things:
> * authoring of content in a specific way
> * description of the alternative files on the server and their
> features for the UA to download and use for switching
> * a means to easily switch mid-way between these alternative files
> I am personally not sure which is the right forum to create the new
> standard in, but I know that we have a need for it in HTML5.
> Would it be possible / the right way to start something like this as
> part of the Web applications work at WHATWG?
> (Incidentally, I've brought this up in W3C before an not got any
> replies, so I'm not sure W3C would be a better place for this work.
> Maybe IETF? But then, why not here...)
> What do people think?
> Cheers,
> Silvia.
> [1] http://www.iis.net/download/SmoothStreaming
> [2] http://www.iis.net/download/smoothstreaming
> [3] http://www.adobe.com/devnet/flashmediaserver/articles/dynstream_on_demand.html
> [4] http://learn.iis.net/page.aspx/792/adaptive-streaming-comparison
> [5] https://labs.ericsson.com/apis/streaming-media/documentation/3gpp-adaptive-http-streaming-ahs
> [6] http://multimediacommunication.blogspot.com/2010/05/http-streaming-of-mpeg-media.html

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