Simple HTML5 video encoding with – interview, first impressions and invite code

Today released a new service called which is not yet another URL shortener, but actually a very impressive service for converting video.

One of the biggest annoyance of using HTML5 video is to convert your movie to various formats supported by different browsers. does this job for you: it converts the video you upload into 14 different formats for different browsers and, more importantly, devices. The interface is very intuitive and you can stand by and watch the conversion happen or simply let it run whilst you go offline or do other things. Once the service finished creating the different formats for you, you get an email. You then can visit the URL on different devices and you get the video in the correct format.

Interview with Jeff Malkin about

To learn more about the service, I got Jeff Malkin, president of on the phone and asked him a few things about the service. You can listen to the interview:

In the interview Jeff answered a few questions and explained a few of my concerns:

  • uses the same cloud backend as, consisting of Amazon’s EC2 and S3 services and fallbacks
  • The conversion happens with ffmpeg and a few other, commercial products as also creates a high quality FLV for you
  • The videos are tested on the real devices and they are also using services that give them access to more exotic physical devices on demand
  • In addition to simply converting the videos to MP4 and Ogg (which can be done using, also creates iOS versions that support adaptive streaming and webm versions.
  • There is no API to make part of a build process in the free version but they are working on a pro version that will allow you to batch process videos and have more granular access to the encoding parameters
  • Right now, you can’t send the converted videos back to a hosting platform of your own choice but this is also in the making.

First impressions

When trying out the service with a video, I was very impressed with the interface. After entering your code you get a video URL. Pressing start asks you for an email (to notify you once the conversion is done) and offers you an interface to upload your video, either from FTP, HTTP, S3 or your hard drive. A log on the page tells you at any time what is happening:

The whole page is a progress bar. Once you uploaded the video the progress starts from left to right and tells you in the log box what is going on. You can stand by or close the page – emails you once the conversion is done.

Under the hood

Once the conversion is done, you get the email with your URL and you can try it on different devices. I checked it on my Nexus One and my iPod and got working videos on each without any redirect, ad display or other annoyances.

The embed code sends you can be improved a bit but was built for ease of use:

Instead of linking the different sources, adds a JavaScript that re-writes the source accordingly. If you check the script you see that it includes the VideoJS player by Zencoder and that there is a lot of detection going on – both using the HTML5 Video API and browser sniffing for Quicktime support or to fall back to Flash.

This seems a bit overkill and could be improved. The other annoyance are IDs on the video and script as that prevents you from using several videos in the same document. But then again, the power of open tech is that you can work around that:

The email is that it tells you that there is a high quality FLV file created for you at{ID}/flv.flv. This means that your videos are stored in Amazon’s S3 with a bucket with the ID of your video. If you rename the flv.flv to ogv.ogv, webm.webm and mp4/mp4 accordingly you use these URLs to create your own video embed without JavaScript or you can download the different versions.

Try it out yourself

You can try yourself using the HNY2011 code. What do you think?

About Chris Heilmann

Evangelist for HTML5 and open web. Let's fix this!

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  1. Chris Williams

    Having just pulled out my hair setting up html5 video AND flv AND js detection, I never want to do it again. sounds exactly what I wished was available (before I lost my hair).

    January 24th, 2011 at 13:42

  2. Leon Matthews

    Nice that they’re leveraging great Open Source projects like ffmpeg to do their conversion. Are they making their code Open Source in turn?

    Their site seems down right now, so can’t check myself…

    Sounds like a cool project, but I’m not willing to tie the success of my project to their company. If they go down (like right now), I want my site to keep going!

    January 24th, 2011 at 15:38

    1. Jeff Malkin

      Hey Leon,

      With, we support over 1,400 business with service level guarantees. When we launch the Pro version of, you can be assured reliability.

      Today was Day 1 of a private beta launch for The traffic has been MASSIVE and the system held up quite well for the most part. We’ll continue to optimize, bug fix and generally improve the service over the coming weeks.

      – jeff

      January 24th, 2011 at 18:18

  3. Darren Armstrong

    Interesting solution for overcoming the issue of providing HTML5 cross browser video and fallbacks. I could see me using this on smaller sites with a small number of videos where it wouldn’t be too much of a problem to switch the videos if the service was wound up.

    January 25th, 2011 at 03:18

  4. c0d3r

    Very nice product! Thanks for the article.

    February 11th, 2011 at 12:51

  5. sliminex

    Wow that was unusual. I just wrote an incredibly long comment but after I clicked submit my comment didn’t appear. Grrrr… well I’m
    not writing all that over again. Anyways, just wanted to say superb blog!

    January 25th, 2013 at 12:22

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