2012-11-15 / Jeroen Wijering
Today, we are proud to announce the public release of JW Player 6! JW6 is JW Player’s biggest update yet, containing tons of new or enhanced functionality. This blog post highlights the most important ones, including a redesigned interface, move to HTML5 first and support for Apple’s HTTP Live Streaming in Flash.
Slicker User Experience
The most noticeable update in JW6 is, without a doubt, a completely redesigned interface. JW6 features a much more modern looking skin than its predecessor. This is a big change, given that the JW Player default skin has looked essentially the same since its first iteration in 2005. In JW6, the player controls are now black instead of grey, and slightly larger to make them easier to use. And of course, it is still easy to customize JW6 with your own skin design.
In addition to changing how the default skin looks, we worked on making the player’s user interface more consistent, defining which components show – and when. For example, JW6 more elegantly manages advanced scenarios, such as when the controlbar, dock buttons, closed captions, overlay ads and logo are displayed.
Each interface component received its own update as well. For example, the button in the middle of the player can now display a video title (or error message) and the various sliders (time, volume, playlist) now contain rounded edges and progress animations. The video controlbar itself has not changed much, but when hovering over the buttons a new tooltip appears. This tooltip displays the time for the timeslider, the volume for the mute button and a Quality or Captions menu for the (built-in!) HD and CC buttons.
Improved Player Performance
It is not just on the surface that things have changed. Under the hood, we rewrote large chunks of code to make JW6 faster and more stable. HTML5 mode especially shows significant improvements, since we were able to leverage many of the recent advancements in HTML5 browsers, including the HTML5 Fullscreen API and CSS3 transitions for subtle interface animations.
More Media Support (Apple HLS)
With JW6 we also updated & streamlined our supported media formats. JW6 officially plays three video formats (MP4/FLV/WebM), three audio formats (AAC/MP3/Vorbis), two streaming formats (HLS/RTMP) and YouTube videos (using their Chromeless API). We did extensive tests and included clear documentation on which formats work in which desktop browsers and mobile devices. Other media formats (like Ogg video or Shoutcast) may also play in JW6 in certain circumstances (we don’t block anything), but we strongly advise publishers to stick with the above.
The coolest new feature on the media side is Apple HTTP Live Streaming in Flash mode. JW6 supports this in the Premium and Ads editions (see below) out of the box. Using HLS and JW6, publishers can now do live and adaptive streaming on desktop browsers and iOS with a single format and a single embed! JW6 supports on-demand and live streams, single and variant playlists, H.264 video and AAC audio and a range of servers and segmenters, including Apple’s segmenter tools and Wowza Media Server.
Other notable enhancements around media support are the addition of WebVTT for closed captioning and StageVideo for (much) smoother video playback in Flash mode. On the RTMP side, we added support for canonical rtmp:// URLs (dropping the file/streamer combo) and SMIL manifests (dropping the use of RSS manifests). Last, we added a quality API and HD selection menu, so viewers can manually select which video quality they prefer. This works for all non-audio formats, including HLS, RTMP and YouTube.
From AddOns to Editions
Our last major update does not relate to JW Player itself, but to the various skins and plugins we provide in addition to the core player functionality. Instead of continuing to offer these a la carte, we decided to roll the most popular into various player editions of JW6. We believe this change will make it easier for our users to find and implement the best AddOns. The key features are now integrated into JW6, described in the documentation and included in the download. Below is a list, with descriptions, of our JW6 Player Editions:
- The Free edition continues to be our $0 offering, which can be used on non-commercial sites only. It is loaded with a core feature set, including functionality currently contained in the Captions, HD and TimeSliderTooltip plugins.
- The Pro edition is our core commercial offering. It allows embedding on a single site. All features of the Free edition are included, plus the ability to disable our watermark, set your own logo, and customize the right-click menu.
- The Premium edition is our feature-packed, value-for-money offering. It can be used on up to 10 commercial sites. It comes with 8 professional JW6 Skins, Apple HLS support in Flash mode, Social Sharing and Related Videos overlays and integration with Google Analytics.
- The Ads edition is our top offering. It includes all of the above plus several advertising options. For example, it supports (IAB-standardised) VAST/VPAID ads and Google IMA (for DART and AdSense).