A new video player has been enabled on Wikipedia and its sister sites, and it comes with the promise of bringing free educational videos to more people, on more devices, in more languages.
The player is the same HTML5 player used in the Kaltura open-source video platform. It has been integrated with MediaWiki (the software that runs Wikimedia sites like Wikipedia) through an extension called TimedMediaHandler. It replaces an older Ogg-only player that has been in use since 2007.
Based on HTML5, the new player plays audio and video files on wiki pages. It brings many new features, like advanced support for closed captions and other timed text. By allowing contributors to transcribe videos, the new player is a significant step towards accessibility for hearing-impaired Wikipedia readers. Captions can easily be translated into many languages, thus expanding their potential audience.
TimedMediaHandler also comes with other useful features, like support for the royalty-free WebM video format. Support for WebM makes it possible to seamlessly import videos encoded to that format, such as freely-licensed content from YouTube’s massive library.
Even further behind the scenes, TimedMediaHandler adds support for server-side transcoding, i.e. the ability to convert from one video format to another, in order to deliver the appropriate video stream to the user depending on their bandwidth and the size of the player. For example, support for mobile formats is available, although it is not currently enabled.
Sponsored by Kaltura and Google, developers Michael Dale and Jan Gerber are the main architects of the successful launch of the new player. With the support of the Wikimedia Foundation’s engineering team and Kaltura, they have gone through numerous cycles of development, review and testing to finally release the fruits of years of work.
Efforts to better integrate video content to Wikipedia and its sister sites date back to early 2008, when Kaltura and the Wikimedia Foundation announced their first collaborative video experiment. Since then, incremental improvements have been released, but the deployment of TimedMediaHandler is the most significant achievement to date. (more…)