To plug in, or not to plug in: that is the question! 

May 17th, 2012 by Elliott Mitchell

In recent years, we have seen a tremendous amount of attention to what can only be described as a debate between browser based plugins and their more standards based equivalent technologies, HTML & Javascript. Granted, even plugin providers can argue that they have open standards, but HTML definitely has its roots originating by a standards processes like W3C which is widely accepted by the web community. While we don’t want to go down the route of arguing for either side, it’s quite interesting to consider some of the available information freely circulating on the web.

Let’s start off first by examining some of the requirements of a plugin based deployment. If a webpage requires a plugin, often the end user will be prompted to install or update before they can proceed. This prompt is often met with resistance by users who either don’t know what the plugins are, have a slow Internet connection or receive security warnings about installing the plugin. While there are steps to install browser based plugins and these may present difficulties for some, most online statistics show that this hasn’t really affected adoption rates.

To address this, I thought it would be helpful to take a peek at the current trajectory of plugin usage, plugin alternatives like HTML5, and browser usage as to better inform developers to decide whether or not to create plugin dependent content for the web browser. Let’s first take a look at desktop web browser plugin usage between September 2008 and January 2012 as measured by statowl.com:

Flash – 95.74%
Java Support 75.63%
SilverLight Support 67.37%
Quicktime Support 53.99%
Window Media Player Support 53.12%

Unity – ?% (numbers not available, estimated at 120 million installs as of May 2012)

Flash has been holding strong and is steadily installed on a more than 95% of all desktop computers. Flash is fortunate that two years after it’s launch, deals were made with all the major browsers to ship with Flash pre-installed. Pre-installs, YouTube, Facebook and 15 years on the market have made Flash the giant it is. Flash updates require user permission and a browser reboot.

Java Support updates for browsers have been holding steady for the past four years between 75% and 80%. Some of these updates can be hundreds of megabytes to download as system updates. At least on Windows systems, Java Support updates sometime require a system reboot. Apple has depreciated Java as of the release of OSX 10.6 Update 3 and is hinting of not supporting it in the future, at which time Java would rely on manual installation.

Interestingly enough, Microsoft Silverlight’s plugin install base has been steadily rising over the past four years from under 20% to almost 70% of browsers. Silverlight requires a browser reboot as well.

Both Windows Media support and Apple’s Quicktime support have seen installs drop steadily over the past four years, down from between 70% – 75% to a little more than 50%. It is worth pointing out that both these plugins are limited in their functionality when compared to the previously discussed plugins and Unity, mentioned below. Quicktime updates for OSX are handled through system updates. Windows Media Player updates are handled by Windows Systems updates. Both Windows and OSX require rebooting after updates.

Unity web player plugin has been on the rise over the past four years, although numbers are difficult to come by. The unofficial word from Unity is it has approximately 120 million installs. This is impressive due to Unity emerging from relative obscurity four years ago. Unity provides advanced capabilities and rich experiences. Unity MMO’s, like Battlestar Galactica, have over 10 million users. Social game portals like Facebook, Brass Monkey and Kongregate are seeing a rise in Unity content. Unity now targets the Flash player to leverage Flash’s install base. *The Unity plugin doesn’t require rebooting anything (See below).

So what about rich content on the desktop browser without a plugin? There are currently two options for that. The first option is HTML5 on supported browsers. HTML5 is very promising and open source but not every browser fully supports it. HTML5 runs best on Marathon & Chrome at the moment. Take a peek at html5test.com to see how desktop browsers score on supporting HTLM5 features.

The second option for a plugin free rich media content experience in the browser is Unity running natively in Chrome. That’s a great move for Chrome and Unity. How pervasive is Chrome? Check out these desktop browser statistics from around the world ranging between May 2011 to April 2012 according to StatCounter:

IE 34.07% – Steadily Decreasing
Chrome 31.23% – Steadily Increasing
Firefox 24.8% – Slightly Decreasing
Safari 7.3% – Very Slightly increasing
Opera 1.7% – Holding steady

Chrome installs are on the rise and IE is falling. At this time, Chrome’s rapid adoption rates are great for both Unity and HTML5. A big question is when will Unity run natively in IE, Firefox and/or Safari?

We’ve now covered the adoption statistics of many popular browser based plugins and the support for HTML5 provided by the top browsers. There may not really be a debate at all. It appears that there are plenty of uses for each technology at this point. It is my opinion that if the web content is spectacularly engaging, innovative and has inherent viral social marketing hooks integrated, you can proceed on either side of the divide.

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The Evolution of Infrared5

June 21st, 2011 by Keith Peters

I joined Infrared5 back in November 2007. Those were very different times. We were a hard core Flash shop, focusing on Red5 Server based applications and Papervision3D. The iPhone had been out for less than six months and only Apple could write apps for it. The iPod Touch was just a few weeks old. Nobody had heard of Android. Tablets were just a failed venture by Microsoft that most people had forgotten about a few years before. Nobody was particularly excited about HTML (5 or otherwise) or JavaScript. If there was any perceived threat to Flash at the time, it might have been Silverlight, but nobody was particularly worried about that.

Now, the landscape is very different. I’m not going to say Flash is dead. I don’t think it is. I don’t even think that it is dying, per se. What is happening though, is that there are so many other cool and interesting things out there now, that Flash has lost its place in the spotlight for many developers. Also, I think that Flash initially had a very low learning curve and very little barrier to entry. A lot of Flash developers grew up as Flash did, learned real programming, object orientation, design patterns, best practices, etc., and were then able to branch out to other languages and platforms.

I have to say, that Infrared5 has not only rolled with the changes very well, but has completely embraced the change. I think virtually all of our front end developers are now seasoned iOS developers. Several have embraced Android development as well. We have Windows Phone 7 knowledge (mostly me), and our 3D platform has moved from Papervision to Unity. We’re doing HTML5 stuff as well as Flash and Flex sites, iPad apps, kiosk applications. Many of our projects even span multiple platforms – a Flex 4 app with an HTML5 public facing site, Flash or Unity 3D games with a companion iPhone app via Brass Monkey.

The company’s tag line is “Yeah, we can build that.” I’d say we’ve lived up to that.

In closing, I ran across this quote the other day that I really loved. It comes from a free on line book, “Learn Python the Hard Way”, by Zed A. Shaw, which you can find here: http://learnpythonthehardway.org/ . In the last section called “Advice From An Old Programmer”, he says:

“What I discovered after this journey of learning is that the languages did not matter, it’s what you do with them. Actually, I always knew that, but I’d get distracted by the languages and forget it periodically. Now I never forget it, and neither should you.

Which programming language you learn and use does not matter. Do not get sucked into the religion surrounding programming languages as that will only blind you to their true purpose of being your tool for doing interesting things.

Programming as an intellectual activity is the only art form that allows you to create interactive art. You can create projects that other people can play with, and you can talk to them indirectly. No other art form is quite this interactive. Movies flow to the audience in one direction. Paintings do not move. Code goes both ways.”

The full quote is here: http://learnpythonthehardway.org/book/advice.html

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Infrared5 Joins ng Connect Program

January 5th, 2011 by Mike Oldham

Infrared5 Joins ng Connect Program to Enable High Definition Video Streaming Over Broadband Wireless Networks – Collaborates on Innovative Solution Concept for Retail, Travel, Tourism Industries

Boston, MA, January 5, 2011 – Infrared5™, a leader in web and mobile software development services, announced today that they have joined the ng Connect Program, a multi industry initiative founded by Alcatel-Lucent to drive innovation in services using next generation broadband technologies such as the Long Term Evolution (LTE).

Under the auspices of the ng Connect Program, Infrared5 was hired by lead collaborator MediaTile with support from Alcatel-Lucent to develop software components for the Virtual Concierge, a new solution concept announced today.  This next generation pedestal-type digital 2-way video interactive platform will transform the retail, travel, and tourism industries. MediaTile contracted Infrared5 to develop a combination of open source and proprietary technologies,  to enable high definition video to be streamed over a 4G/LTE network as part of the MediaCast Video Presence system. This infrastructure enables 2-way video chat from any location enabling customers to speak directly to a concierge that could be located anywhere else in the world and have an instant conversation remotely. The kiosk can operate over any broadband wireless network, specifically 4G/LTE, and therefore the device can literally be plugged in and run from anywhere.

Infrared5, MediaTile and Alcatel-Lucent will showcase the Virtual Concierge at the Alcatel-Lucent booth #35469 in the South Hall at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas from January 6-9, 2011.

“This has been one of the most challenging yet rewarding projects that we’ve worked on at Infrared5, and has really made the most of our skills as multi-media programmers. All of the knowledge that we’ve learned over the years, developing open source projects like Red5 Server, and other customer work, have culminated in our efforts with the Virtual Concierge,” said Chris Allen, CEO of Infrared5.  “Working with Alcatel-Lucent and other members within the ng Connect Program has made us realize the market opportunity for us with next generation wireless networks. The Virtual Concierge is a prime example of this.”

“The ng Connect Program and Infrared5 have a shared vision for taking advantage of next generation networks for video streaming, including high definition video streaming that Infrared5 excels in. Working with Infrared5 to develop the Virtual Concierge is just the beginning of our work together on transforming how people connect by taking advantage of 4G/LTE networks, as well as the future of new next generation networks,” said Steve West, Vice President of Emerging Technology and Media at Alcatel-Lucent, a founding member of the ng Connect Program.

About Infrared5

Infrared5 is a consulting firm that specializes in developing cutting-edge experiences for the Flash Platform, Unity 3D and the iPhone. With its all-star team of designers and developers, Infrared5 has excelled at building sites, games, components, virtual worlds and RIAs for companies like NBC Universal, LucasFilm, Adobe, Wrigley’s and Ribbit. Infrared5 is also well known for their leadership role and expertise on the open source projects, Red5 and Papervision3D.

About the ng Connect Program

The ng Connect Program is a multi-industry organization committed to the development and rapid deployment of the next generation of broadband services based on Long Term Evolution (LTE) and other ultra high bandwidth technologies. Founded in 2009, the ng Connect Program is supported by leading network, consumer electronics, application and content providers including 4DK, Alcatel-Lucent, Atlantic Records, BlogRadio, Brass Monkey, BUZZMEDIA, chumby, Connect2Media, CoolSign, Creative Technology Ltd., Desktone, Ecrio, Inc., EON Reality, FISHLABS, GameStreamer, Inc., Gemalto, Genetec, HFMUS, HP, IMS, Infrared5, Intamac Systems Ltd., IVOX, K12, Inc., Kabillion, Kyocera Communications Inc., LearningMate, LiveCast, MediaTile, mental images, Mobideo, Movial, NCR Corporation, Netsweeper, Neusoft Corporation, Nuance Communications, Optical Crime Prevention, Inc., QNX, R360, RebelVox LLC., Samsung, SIGNEXX, Skymeter Corporation, STRATACACHE, [TC]2, TelePresence Tech, Total Immersion, Toyota Motor Sales USA, Inc., TuneWiki, V-Gate, Vidyo, VisionMAX Solutions Inc., Wcities.com, and Words & Numbers. For more information on the ng Connect Program, please visit: www.ngconnect.org. Follow us on Twitter at: http://twitter.com/ngConnect.

Editorial Contacts

Chris Allen, Infrared5                    Tel: +1 617-470-8815               chris@infrared5.com

Pamela Preston, ng Connect         Tel: +1 212-616-6001               ppreston@breakawaycom.com

Alicia Mickelsen, ng Connect         Tel: +1 212-616-6002               amick@breakawaycom.com

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FITC Mobile 2010

September 3rd, 2010 by Mike Oldham

FITC Mobile 2010

Back for its second year, FITC Mobile is one of the only events covering all aspects of mobile content development – jam-packed with presentations, demonstrations, and panel discussions. With some of the most interesting and engaging presenters from around the world, FITC Mobile is two days and nights that will leave you inspired, energized and awed!

This year Infrared5′s CEO, Chris Allen, will present the new cutting edge Brass Monkey SDK for creating cross platform experiences. Chris will open your eyes to the possibilities and how Brass Monkey fits into the convergence of mobile and web.

Don’t miss out on an outstanding lineup of speakers and sessions and buy your tickets before it’s too late. It’s going to be another great conference and I hope to see you all there! Be sure to register with the discount code: infrared5 for $50 off.

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Screaming with Ozzy

July 7th, 2010 by Mike Oldham

We recently collaborated with Sony Music to develop an engaging and unique experience to promote Ozzy Osbourne’s latest album Scream. The application challenges users to belt out there best scream using their webcam. The front-end was built using Flash and the Flex framework, and relied on Red5 for recording videos from a webcam and submitting the videos via the YouTube API. The most popular videos on the YouTube channel are prominently featured in a 3D wall on the website. This was yet another interesting project to build and test in the office. You’d think a team of engineers would be a little more introverted, guess again.
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