Date: November 15, 2012 Author: Jeroen Wijering

Introducing Our Newest Online Video Player Update – JW Player 6

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 and enhanced functionality for our online video player. 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.

JW6 Interface

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.

HTML5 Support

We also separated the JavaScript library that takes care of embedding JW Player from the actual HTML5 and Flash playback logic. This allows JW Player to select which rendering mode (HTML5 or Flash) to use for each individual embed on the fly. If both can be used (e.g. for Chrome with an MP4 video), JW Player will choose HTML5 mode first (i.e. by default). As publishers upgrade to JW6, this will significantly boost real-world usage of HTML5 video! Publishers who prefer Flash (e.g. when using streaming or advertising) can simply set the primary rendering mode to Flash.

Another important change we made was the decision to use a single embed method. JW6 can only be embedded using the JW Embedder method we introduced in 2010. Embeds using a video tag or SWFObject are no longer supported, nor possible. We did this to make JW6 browser and device independent. The JW Embedder enables the full range of JW Player functionality, including the HTML5/Flash dual rendering mode, advanced streaming/advertising scenarios and our powerful JavaScript APIs, while the alternate embedding methods would not be able to support those functionalities. As a result, using JW Embedder as the single embed method, allows publishers to embed and interact with JW6 on every mobile device and desktop browser, without worrying which features or media formats will work where.

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.

HLS Streaming

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 online video 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).

Although our AddOns library is no longer supported for JW6, we continue to support integrations with our technology partners such as Akamai’s HD Network and Tremor Media’s Acudeo. Our XML Skinning Model and JavaScript API also received massive upgrades for JW6, so JW Player remains as customizable and extensible as ever!