Emmy award: Bringing premium media to the web

The National Academy of Television, Arts & Science recognized Microsoft with two Technology & Engineering Emmy awards that I was happy to accept on behalf of the Microsoft Edge Web Platform team in 2019 and 2020:

The 70th Technology & Engineering Emmy Awards, Las Vegas; 4/7/2019

John Simmons and I accepting the Emmy on behalf of the Windows and Microsoft Edge teams, respectively.

Today, premium media sites, like Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hulu, and others, use the HTML5 Video, Encrypted Media Extensions (EME), and Media Sources Extensions (MSE) web standards to deliver premium movies and TV experience on web sites, web apps, and TV set boxes using web technologies. But before these web standards, most premium media sites would rely on plug-ins, like Flash, Sliverlight, and others, to deliver these experiences on the web. Unfortunately, plug-ins had many flaws: they require the user to install them before they can view the video and had notoriously poor performance, reliability, and suffered from many security issues.

Starting in 2013, Microsoft worked with other industry partners, like W3C, Netflix, Comcast, and Google, to start developing several web standards that would support these same experiences on the web natively without plug-ins. We first helped standardize the HTML5 Video element, so browsers would natively support a video player without requiring the user install a plug-in. This video element was great for most videos but had some limitations: it used progressive playback where the video would have to be fully downloaded first and the video source was available for anyone to see. While this is okay for most media, content owners that stream premium video want to stream video as quickly and with the highest quality as possible and make sure that only users authorized by the streaming service should be able to view the video.

To solve the first problem, we helped standardize Media Source Extensions to support adaptive streaming. With this web standard and a streaming server, sites could adaptively switch between different media streams so users with good bandwidth would get highest quality and data rate video streams and users with lower bandwidth would get lower quality streams. This ensured that users are less likely to see buffering as their network conditions change or need to wait for the full video to download.

To solve the second problem, we helped standardize Encrypted Media Extension so web sites could leverage content protection systems, like Digital Rights Management (DRM), for web media. Content owners will not stream premium content if it can be easily saved and shared outside the service. With EME, web sites can ensure their premium media content is protected.

On the browser media team, we worked closely with the Windows team to bring these technologies to IE11 and Microsoft Edge. While IE11 was the first browser to implement many of these early web standards, Microsoft Edge continues to provide the best-in-class protected media support. Microsoft Edge often gets highest resolution and bitrate video because it’s the only browser on Windows to use the robust hardware-backed Microsoft PlayReady DRM – as video quality goes up, so does the need for better protection. Sites that rely on hardware-backed PlayReady DRM on Microsoft Edge can stream 1080p or 4k with high dynamic range (HDR) with confidence that their content cannot be stolen, while also giving their users the best battery life because we’re leveraging hardware. To provide developers with technology choice and highest level of compatibility, Microsoft Edge also supports multiple DRM systems, including both Microsoft PlayReady and Google Widevine DRM systems.


One of the Emmy awards given to Microsoft innovators.

I’m very appreciative of the National Academy of Television, Arts & Science for recognizing Microsoft’s contributions in helping make the web better for premium video experiences. It’s great to see how far the web has come in just a few years and I’m looking forward to seeing how we continue to make it even better with more powerful capabilities in the future.