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JW Player 7 Released, With DASH Support and Speed Improvements

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It's a big day for JW Player (the company) as it's releasing a major new version of JW Player (the video player). Version 7 of the popular player includes MPEG-DASH support, completely rewritten code that loads 35 percent faster than the previous version, and CSS skinning.

"We're the first to deploy MPEG-DASH," says Jeroen Wijering, company co-founder. "We're the first one to put it in the market as technology to buy at scale."

For version 7, the player's code was cleaned up so that it loads faster and displays the first frame of a video in under one second. Prior to this, the company had two player versions, one for Flash and one for HTML5. With version 7 there's only an HTML5 version: everything is HTML5 except for the video frame. To compress the code, the company combined scripts, removed bottlenecks, and trimmed the footprint, Wijering says, resulting in code that's two-thirds the size it used to be.

"Instead of building in more technology, we're tweaking the technologies and making them fast and fluid," Wijering says. "JW7 is really our release that focuses on performance. We took it a step further and tried to make it as efficient and fast as possible."

Providing digital rights management (DRM) for DASH is also part of JW Player 7, although it gets a little help from the DRM specialist Vualto. The player can provide DASH with DRM in HTML5 for Chrome and IE, and in Flash for Safari and Firefox. For a full solution, JW passes customers to Vualto for the necessary license key servers.

While previous generations offered player skinning, doing so required learning a custom format. Now, skinning is done by CSS so anyone who knows CSS can create a custom look for their site or brand.

JW Player has also improved the HTML5 video experience by adding full interactive media ads (IMA) support. Google's IMA platform is used by upmarket publishers, Wijering says, and this player supports version 3, which is the latest release. That brings ad skipping and ad podding (adding a sequence of video ads in a mid-roll spot) to both desktop and mobile. Flash video already had IMA support.

JW Player offers a major release roughly every two-and-a-half years, with updates every quarter.

"The major updates are architectural changes—big changes that make us rewrite the underpinnings of the player," Wijering says. "The major changes also allow us to reevaluate what's being used and then drop the things that are sparsely used or are outdated."

The biggest thing being dropped this time around is IE8 support. That browser accounts for 1.8 percent of version 6's traffic, but jettisoning it helped the engineers compress the code.

Updating video players takes a few seconds, and the update is available to both paid and free customers. JW Player has 15,000 paying customers and the free version is used on 2.5 million sites. DASH support is reserved for paying customers. The company will continue to support JW Player 6 for 18 months.

JW Player is also releasing native Android and iOS SDKs, which Wijering calls fast and consistent across the board. Publishers can skin once for both mobile operating systems, and use one player for all viewers. The SDKs dramatically decrease the number of technologies companies need to support, Wijering says, and greatly improve video performance on Android devices. The SDKs will be available to enterprise customers.

While JW Player 7 comes out today, Wijering is already looking ahead to the next point upgrade. Expect native app casting support for Apple TV, Roku boxes, and Amazon Fire TV to come later this year, as well as greatly improved HTML5 ad analytics.

"That's what the team is working on now," Wijering says.

JW Player 7

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