For years, LongTail Video has offered its open source JW Player as a free alternative for businesses that don’t want to put their videos on YouTube or pay SaaS-based content management players like Brightcove or Ooyala. But it doesn’t have all the features and functionality they might like — for instance, built in support for Apple’s HTTP Live Streaming (HLS) adaptive bit-rate protocol. The new version of the JW Player — JW6 — seeks to correct that, while also improving the UI and speeding up playback.
The biggest change in JW6, at least on the surface, is the player UI itself. The player hadn’t changed dramatically since being launched in 2005, and it kind of looked that way. The new version follows the trend toward modern, chrome-less video players, with bigger controls to make it easier for users to navigate the video or turn on and off features. The LongTail team also added hovering displays for the timeslider, volume, and quality and captions menu when moused over.
But the team has also made a lot of changes to the player behind the scenes. They rewrote the code to make it faster, especially in HTML5 mode, where it takes advantage of modern browser improvements like the HTML5 Fullscreen API and CSS3 transitions. The player also has been enhanced to enable automatic switching between HTML5 and Flash playback, depending on which browser is trying to reach it. While it will default to HTML5 playback, the embedded player will playback in Flash if HTML5 is not supported.
The update also includes support for Apple’s HLS, enabling publishers to take advantage of adaptive bit-rate capabilities on iOS devices for the first time. HLS will provide smoother playback and improved quality while viewers watch videos in the JW player, particularly in low-bandwidth situations. That will allow them to reach both desktop and iOS devices with a single embed.
LongTail Video has also simplified the formats it supports in both video and audio formats. In video, it supports MP4, FLV, and WebM formats, with support for AAC, MP3, and Vorbis on the audio side. It also supports both HLS and RTMP for streaming, as well as YouTube video rendering. The new player will also allow viewers to choose the video quality they prefer, which will work regardless of the format.
The final change comes not to the player itself, but to the way that LongTail Video monetizes it. While JW Player had a free version, the company had also offered paid version and various plugins available on an a la carte basis. It’s doing away with the add-ons system and bundling a lot of the most popular add-ons into different versions of the player.
There will be a free edition of JW6, which will be available with the basic feature set. But it also has a couple of paid versions. The Pro Edition, which costs $99 for embedding on a single site, allows users to disable the logo or add their own, and customize the right-click menu. There’s also a Premium addition that can be used on up to 10 commercial sites. It also supports Apple HLS and social sharing, and it shows related videos. Finally, there’s an Ads Edition, which customers pay $49 a month for, which has all the same features as Premium but also supports a number of ad platforms for publishers to monetize with.