Streaming Video Email

Streaming Video Email sounds like a great idea. Instead of having to read a typed message, recipients can watch a video which is a far better solution for presenting visual materials. However, although it sounds all well and good in theory, there are some practical problems with streaming video email that have prevented it from becoming the next Big Thing. The biggest difficulty is how the video is going to be delivered. Will it be sent as an email attachment, or will it be embedded in the body of the email?

Email attachments are not widely accepted these days because of their association with computer viruses. Almost everyone has heard about or been directly affected by the thousands of viruses that are distributed as email attachments. Opening an attachment can lead to the loss of files or the hijacking of your computer by a malicious hacker.

Even if people were to accept attachments, they may be annoyed by the large size of video files. Having to download a huge video file is not a lot of fun for someone with a dial up connection that is being charged by the second.

The alternative to email attachments is to embed a video file in the email message. This may be a simple link that opens a browser window for viewing the video, or the video itself may be viewed within the email message.

Both of these methods are similar in that the video is hosted at a remote location and does not have to be downloaded as an email attachment. This is an example of video streaming technology and is well suited to video email.

If the email has a simple link to the video, clicking on it will open a browser window and the video will start playing within a second or two. The complete video does not have to download before it can be viewed which saves the recipient time and also allows the video to be stopped if it is not to the recipient's liking.

A video clip can also be embedded in the body of an email message, a very convenient method for the recipient. In this case, the video is again hosted on a remote computer, but the email message, in HTML format (plain text format will not work) includes instructions to call the appropriate media viewer and play the video without opening a browser window.

This type of video email usually uses Flash technology. The first frame of the video can be seen in the email and the controls for playing the video are clearly displayed.

The video file must be stored on a server, so the sender of the video email must have his or her own server or sign up for a video email service. Companies that offer video email use video streaming servers that can keep up with the demand of delivering many video files at the same time.

The cost for a video email service can range from a few dollars up to $50 a month. Individuals who are interested in sending the occasional video email may not be able to justify this expense, but companies that use video email to distribute memos or sales material to staff and customers need the reliability that video streaming servers offer.

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