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Encoding.com Presents Vid.ly: Upload Once, Stream Anywhere—for Free

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When hearing about Vid.ly, a free service launching today in private beta from Encoding.com, one expects to hear the catch at some point. There doesn't seem to be one.

Vid.ly is a simple solution to the problem of streaming to all browsers and devices. How simple? Upload a video from your desktop (or link to an FTP-, HTTP-, Amazon S3- or cloud-stored file), and the service automatically encodes it into 14 different versions. When it's done, you'll get a link to a Vid.ly player page and a bit of HTML code you can place in a webpage. The player includes browser and device detection, so that the correct video always plays. 

The only limit on the service is a generous one: uploaded files can be up to 1GB in size. Users are welcome to upload as many videos as they want, as often as they want.

Where are the encoded versions hosted? Encoding.com handles that with Amazon Web Services, which also provides the streaming. The service stores the original file, as well. When a new format comes along that's required for some browser or device, Vid.ly will re-encode all stored videos into that new format automatically.

Finished encodes don't have a watermark, there's no pre- or post-roll ad, and there's no rule against commercial use.

All this is free. For now, it's available to the first 1,000 users. StreamingMedia.com readers can use the code HNY2011 for access.

"There's no catch there," says Jeff Malkin, Encoding.com's president. He's hoping that the free service serves as marketing for the company: each time people pass on a Vid.ly link, they'll be promoting the service since the name is built into the short URL. But users are free to embed the Vid.ly player in their pages, in which case there's no mention of the service.

Here's what a Vid.ly link looks like. It's short, so that it can easily be shared on Twitter or Facebook: http://vid.ly/2p0i2i

Enter a video for encoding and Vid.ly sends you an e-mail notification when it’s done. Here’s a video we encoded with Vid.ly and embedded using the provided code:

The 14 encodes are mostly standard definition, with a few exceptions. The iPad version is a 1024x768 MP4 file, and the iPhone and iPod Touch version is a 960x640 MP4 file. iOS users will see the best image quality. There are eight MP4 versions, two 3GP (for Nokia phones), one MOV, one WebM, one FLV, and one Ogg. Vid.ly also offers the VP6 FLV version as a direct FLV URL for legacy Flash players.

Encoding.com will introduce a paid version of the service in two months. Paid features will include API access, adaptive bit rate streaming for Apple devices, the ability to customize the 14 versions, no source file size limit, HD resolutions, and the ability to deliver to a premium CDN or wherever you like. Pricing hasn't yet been determined for the paid version.

The service is an answer to customer requests to simply make their videos available everywhere, with no fuss. While the idea is to appeal to developers, Encoding.com created the free version first to reach a consumer market.

Malkin is hoping for a viral hit, and he just might get one. There's never been a video service that gives away so much. Is he worried that all this free encoding, hosting, and delivery will cost the company too much money?

"It's a great problem to have if we're spending too much on Vid.ly, because it means that this thing is really taking off," Malkin says. He does admit, however, that he might limit the number of videos a person could upload or the lower the size limit in the future, if spending becomes an issue.

"There are levers we could pull, but we're hoping we never have to," Malkin says.

If you have videos to share, give Vid.ly a try. While it's meant for consumer use, it could be a useful tool for small- and mid-sized companies, as well.

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